Israel’s Labor Party Holds Leadership Primary Ahead of March Election

Lawmaker Merav Michaeli is viewed as the leading contender, after Labor chairman Amir Peretz and Minister Itzik Shmuli said they won't be running for party leadership

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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Merav Michaeli is tapped to win the leadership of Israeli Labour Party
Merav Michaeli is tapped to win the leadership of Israeli Labour PartyCredit: Moti Milrod
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

The Labor Party will hold its leadership primary on Sunday, two months before Israel holds its fourth election in two years, with lawmaker Merav Michaeli considered to be leading the race for party leadership.     

Current Chairman Amir Peretz has said that he will not run in the upcoming election and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Itzik Shmuli announced that he would not run for party chairman. Some 37,000 party members are eligible to vote at 70 polling stations throughout the country.

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Sources close to Peretz said they are hoping that a new candidate will breathe new life into Labor, now lingering in the polls below the electoral threshold for entering the Knesset. 

Shmuli explained in a Facebook post that he opposed the decision to hold an internal election for the party slate just days before the Knesset slates are finalized on February 4, because it would reduce the possibilities for alliances between center-left parties.

Itzik Shmuli in Jerusalem, July 2020. Credit: Mark Yisrael Selem

A number of activists are challenging Michaeli, but their chances seem to be slim. These include businessman Avi Shaked, a close associate of Peretz; the son of former minister Yossi Beilin; Nava Katz, a member of the city council in the settlement of Efrat; Ethiopian Israeli social activist Yitzhak Tiem; David Landsman and Ofer Segman. The primary for the party’s full Knesset slate will be held later.

The Tel Aviv District Court struck down a decision earlier this month by the Labor Party’s Central Committee – a small administrative body numbering only a few thousand voters – to cancel the primary for party leader and Knesset roster.

The move to cancel it was led by Peretz, and the matter went to court after Michaeli and about 100 activists opposed the committee’s decision. Peretz and the party’s secretary general, Eran Hermoni, petitioned against the ruling in favor of the activists to the Supreme Court, but withdrew their petition at the last moment.

The polling stations will be open between 11 A.M. and 7 P.M. and the party says the results will be published about one hour after the polls close. Coronavirus regulations permit people to exceed the lockdown travel restriction of one kilometer from home to vote in the primary.

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