Race for Israeli Labor Party' Leadership Heats Up as Lawmaker Demands Vote

In letter to Labor chair and opposition leader Isaac Herzog demanding leadership vote within 6 months, likely rival MK Erel Margalit decries 'deteriorating state of party.'

Tzipi Livni, left, and Isaac Herzog at a meeting of the Zionist Union in Jerusalem, November 7, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

The race for leadership of the Labor Party is heating up: MK Erel Margalit, who is planning to run for that post against MK Isaac Herzog, the present chairman of Zionist Union and leader of the government opposition, demanded in a letter Sunday a date be set for the leadership vote before the end of July. Otherwise, Margalit says he will go to court to force Herzog to set a date.

In the letter he sent Herzog, Margalit wrote: “The state of the party is deteriorating and it is seen as being run by a weak leadership whose only actions are to preserve its own status with the help of delay tactics. We must put an end to this saga.”

MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) at a finance committee meeting in the Knesset, in July 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

Zionist Union was created by means of a merger between the Labor and Hatnuah parties in 2014, in advance of the last national election.

Last July, Herzog pushed a decision through the Labor Party convention in favor of a primary in July 2017, but without setting a specific date.

A number of internal party elections have to be held before the leadership vote – a process that takes about four months. Since the decision last summer, no progress has been to prepare for these votes, and party sources say Herzog intends on asking for a further postponement until November.

So far only MK Amir Peretz has officially announced he will challenge Herzog for Labor's leadership, although Margalit has made it quite clear he too will run. Both MK Shelly Yacimovich and Labor’s brand new acquisition, former minister Avi Gabbay, are considering running too.