Former Labor Leader Peretz Quits Party, Knesset, to Stay on as Minister Under Netanyahu

Peretz defied newly elected Chairwoman Merav Michaeli, who ordered him and Social Services Minister Itzik Shmuli to resign from government, but the move could help the party's image ahead of the March 23 vote

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Former Labor Chairman Amir Peretz votes at the party's primary election in Sderot, January 24, 2021.
Former Labor Chairman Amir Peretz votes at the party's primary election in Sderot, January 24, 2021.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel’s Economy and Industry Minister Amir Peretz announced on Tuesday his resignation from the Labor Party and the Knesset, breaking from the party's newly elected chairwoman, Merav Michaeli, who replaced him at the helm.

Former Chairman Peretz said he will continue to serve as minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until a new government is formed after the March 23 election, Israel's fourth in two years.

Everybody wants their vote. But what do Israeli-Arab voters want? LISTEN to our podcastCredit: Everybody wants their vote. But what do Israeli-Arab voters want? LISTEN to our podcast

"Since this is a caretaker government, any departure of a minister from the center-left bloc would only strengthen the right-wing bloc," Peretz argued in a letter to Michaeli. "I decided to accept the request of the Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin [Benny] Ganz and continue to fulfill my role as economy and industry minister."

A day after he victory in the party primary election, Michaeli announced on Monday that Labor would be leaving Netanyahu's government, calling on Peretz and Social Services Minister Itzik Shmuli to resign.

After Israel's 2020 election, Michaeli refused to join Netanyahu's government, and split from Peretz and Shmuli, who opted for cabinet positions, despite campaign promises not to do so.

Tuesday’s decision by Peretz to stay on as a minister will likely play into the hands of the Michaeli, who is trying to polish Labor’s campaign image as an opposition party. It will allow Michaeli to clearly renounce the party's short-lived partnership with Netanyahu, which drove voters away and brought support for Labor to record low.

A Channel 13 poll on Sunday, after Michaeli's election, showed Labor passing the electoral threshold for the first time since the March 23 election was announced.

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