Israeli Labor’s Agreement With Gantz: Backing Netanyahu, Voting With Government on Annexation

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Labor leader Amir Peretz at a press conference, Tel Aviv, March 12, 2020.
Labor leader Amir Peretz at a press conference, Tel Aviv, March 12, 2020.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Labor Chairman Amir Peretz agreed on Friday to formally endorse Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister, together with his fellow party members, shifting away from one of his key campaign promises ahead of Israel’s March 2 election.

Peretz’s commitment, in a coalition deal with Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, would allow for government talks to be extended for two more weeks, as Netanyahu’s Likud and Kahol Lavan finalize the terms of their unity government.

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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.

Alongside Peretz, Knesset member Itzik Shmuli is set to join the government and abide by the terms of the agreement. But it remains unclear whether Merav Michaeli, Labor’s third and final Knesset member - who has strongly opposed joining a Netanyahu-led government - would be confined by the terms of the agreement or allowed to vote according to her conscience.

The agreement also 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 allowes Labor to nomination 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.

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.

An appendix to the agreement specifies further topics that the two parties would “work to promote,” including “Israel’s peace agreements,” raising the minimum wage and expanding labor rights.

The agreement was signed even though the Labor convention is still only set to vote on Sunday on whether to join the proposed “emergency unity government", led by Netanyahu. Peretz initially refused to make the details of the agreement public.

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