Labor Party Leader Reserves Two Spots of Top 10 on Knesset Slate Ahead of Israeli Election

Labor keeps its partnership with Gesher, whose chairwoman, Orli Levi-Abekasis, said she would demand the finance portfolio in the next government if the party joins the coalition

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Labor chairman Amir Peretz, December 25, 2019.
Labor chairman Amir Peretz, December 25, 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod

The Labor Party voted Wednesday to retain its electoral alliance with Gesher in the March election and to let party chairman Amir Peretz reserve two spots in the top 10 of the party’s Knesset slate for candidates of his choosing.

Of the hundreds of central committee members who attended the party convention, only nine voted against the resolution.

Gesher Chairwoman Orli Levi-Abekasis, meanwhile, said that her party would demand the finance portfolio in the next government if the party joins the coalition.

MK Itzik Shmuli, who on Sunday assailed Peretz’s move to gain approval to reserve additional spots for his candidates, did not attend the convention. He said that while the change would not affect him personally, he refused to “participate in measures that are liable to harm the Labor Party and change its essence.”

Of the first 10 slots on the ticket, three are reserved for Gesher MKs – the second (reserved for Levi-Abekasis), the seventh and the 10th. Labor-Gesher won six Knesset seats in the September election, for Peretz, Levi-Abekasis, Shmuli (in third place) Merav Michaeli, Omer Bar-Lev and Revital Swid.

Peretz made it clear at the convention Wednesday that Labor-Gesher would run independently, though he did not reject a possible tie-up with Meretz or with Kahol Lavan.

“I am turning to my colleagues on the center left,” said Peretz. “What’s happened to you? What’s this gloomy mood? Every party has its own message. Raise your heads; each one will fly his flags with pride and confidence. Let’s invest our energies in storming after our voters, some of whom didn’t come out in the last round. All alliances will be examined at the appropriate time, with the good of our party, the bloc and the country as our top priority. Today we are launching our path as an independent party that has a vision and a team.”

Bar-Lev, who voted against reserving spots for Peretz’s candidates, said at the convention that four of the 10 top spots were already reserved – three for Gesher and one for an Arab representative, in the ninth slot. “As I see it the chairman has utilized his right to two reserved spots. Constitutionally there’s no place to add another two reserved spots to the 10,” Bar-Lev said.

Bar-Lev added, “There’s no real figure of national stature that could lead to Labor getting more seats. Nevertheless, I’ve told Amir privately that if I’m wrong and there’s an electorally significant figure [willing to run with Labor], I would be the first to roll out the red carpet for that person. But it’s not right to blindly reserve another two spots now.” He said he would welcome someone like former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz or noted educator and social activist Adina Bar-Shalom if the party found in a public opinion poll that the latter’s addition would bring the party an additional Knesset seat or two.

Swid said at the conference, which was held as Israel experienced a fierce windstorm, “What is raging outside isn’t just a storm but a deterioration of values and norms. If we do not bravely stand at the front, what awaits us is the end of the state, or a different state in which some are more equal than others before the law and the rule of law. Undoubtedly no responsible legislator ever conceived a situation is which a prime minister holds on to his seat and leads the country to a third election in order to gain immunity and to evade trial.” She urged Peretz to use the tool the convention gave him “solely for someone who will make a great electoral contribution to the party.”

One Labor member, speaking on condition of anonymity told Haaretz the party faced a real dilemma over a possible joint run with Meretz. “There are polls showing that joining with Meretz will reduce the number of Knesset seats both parties get from 11 to eight, or even six. What’s better? To significantly reduce the leftist bloc in the name of unity, or to fight to enlarge it by running separately? We still have time to make a decision on the matter.”