Israel’s Labor Party convention accepted the proposal to join a unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, after party leader Amir Peretz agreed to endorse the coalition agreement, shifting away from one of his key campaign promises ahead of Israel’s March 2 election.
Of the 3,840 convention members, 90.5 percent cast their votes until 8 P.M. Sunday, when polls closed. The majority of the votes, 64.2 percent, were in favor of joining the government.
According to the Labor-Kahol Lavan agreement, lawmakers from Peretz’s left-wing party would have to vote with the government on issues considered controversial, including annexation of parts of the West Bank. Party members also agreed to avoid any moves to dissolve the coalition, the government or the parliament.
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MK Merav Michaeli, the only one of Labor’s three Knesset members who opposes joining the government, urged convention members to reject the unity agreement. “The Labor Party must not commit suicide and become a poor affiliate of Benny Gantz,” she said, adding “Gantz, who stole the Labor Party’s voters and then stole their votes and gave them to Bibi.”
MK Itzik Shmuli, who, like party chairman Peretz, supports joining the government, argued that the agreement Kahol Lavan negotiated with Netanyahu’s Likud party effectively constrains the latter and sets conditions that will thwart unilateral annexation of arts of the West Bank. In an interview with public radio station Kan Bet on Sunday, he said Netanyahu could propose annexation to the cabinet, but Article 28 of the agreement sets “impossible conditions” for approving such a proposal, “like complying with the terms of the treaty with Jordan or not undermining regional stability.”
In fact, however, Article 28 doesn’t require any international player except America to consent to annexation, nor does it require existing peace agreements to be preserved. It merely requires the government to conduct an “international dialogue” on the issue and to “strive” to preserve “Israel’s strategic and security interests, including the need to preserve regional stability, preserve its peace treaties and seek future peace treaties.”
The party’s initial agreement with Kahol Lavan states that Labor would not be free to join Netanyahu’s government alone, but could only do so along with Kahol Lavan, per Gantz’s decision. Moreover, the agreement allows Labor to nominate an ambassador or consul in one of Israel’s high-profile diplomatic representations abroad, and states that the coalition would promote legislation for the official commemoration of Berl Katznelson, a prominent Labor leader in pre-state Israel.
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Alongside these commitments, the agreement also includes a clause by which “the parties would work to ensure financial assistance to same-sex couples for surrogacy abroad,” as part of an effort that would be led by Shmuli, who is expected to be nominated for social affairs and social services minister. He is openly gay and has a child with his partner, born via a surrogate mother in the United States.