Reform Leader in Top Five of Labor Party's Slate for Israel's March Election

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Gilad Kariv speaks at a protest in Tel Aviv, January 2018.
Gilad Kariv speaks at a protest in Tel Aviv, January 2018.Credit: Moti Milrod
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Some 18,000 Labor Party members chose the party’s Knesset slate on Monday, producing a ticket that’s comprised mostly of new faces and on which women and men alternate.

Altogether, 40 percent of the party’s members voted in the primary, which was conducted online and at nine polling stations around the country. Following party Chairwoman Merav Michaeli are, in order: Omer Bar-Lev, Emilie Moatti, Gilad Kariv, Efrat Rayten, Ram Shefa and Ibtisam Mara’ana.

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For English speakers, the most familiar name on the list is probably Kariv, a Reform rabbi who heads the Reform movement’s Israeli branch. He got the most votes after Bar-Lev, a former MK. Moatti is a publicist and social activist. Rayten is an actress contending for the first time. Mara’ana is a film director and producer who lives in Jaffa. It still isn’t clear whether Michaeli will reserve two places in the top 10 for her own choice of candidates, though she has the authority to do so.

Unlike in previous Labor primaries, there were no “stars” among the 62 candidates, though there were many activists and public figures. Itzik Shmuli, who is social affairs minister in the current government, didn’t run in the Labor primary, and is seen as a likely candidate on Kahol Lavan’s slate instead.

“Every one of them came to work and gave of themselves to the public,” Michaeli said of her slate. “The only democratic party in Israel has rejuvenated itself tonight with a high-quality, ethical team, a team of truth with equal representation between men and women. A worthy team.”

Labor was the only party that held a primary ahead of this election. For the first time, because of the coronavirus crisis, it allowed voting by cellphone. The move considerably raised voter turnout: While only a quarter of party members voted in the leadership contest last week, some 40 percent voted on Monday.

Labor party secretary Eran Hermoni is expected to appeal his being given the 11th slot on the ticket, after the party convention last month had confirmed he would get the fifth place. The party’s appeals institution, which convened over the weekend, also backed the decision, saying Hermoni couldn’t be moved from fifth place unless there was a union with other parties.

After Michaeli was elected chairwoman last week, she opened the party to new members, and 8,000 people signed up. Her election also gave Labor a surge in the polls, apparently at the expense of Ron Huldai’s The Israelis party.

Labor sources said Monday that the likelihood of a merger between Labor and Huldai has declined due to the latter’s collapse in the polls, although Michaeli might offer Huldai or MK Ofer Shelah, who has his own party, one of the top 10 slots if such a move is seen to strengthen the party.

Also on Monday, former minister Tzipi Livni – who has been touted as a possible addition to various parties – said she won’t run in the upcoming election.

“I know that Israel is important to you, and you truly believe I have the power to save it in the next election,” she wrote to her supporters. “Unfortunately, I don’t have powers of salvation, and so you won’t see me on the slates submitted to the Knesset this week.”

The deadline for submitting slates for the March 23 election is Thursday.

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