Labor Could Join Netanyahu's Coalition if Prime Minister Not Indicted, Chairman Says

'A vote for Labor is a vote for Netanyahu,' Meretz leader blasts as Peretz refuses to rule out joining Likud government after Israel's September election

A Labor election campaign showing Amir Peretz's portrait, in Tel Aviv, July 15, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Israel's Labor Party does not rule out forming a coalition government with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party if the prime minister is not under indictment in the corruption cases against him, Labor chief Amir Peretz said Saturday.

Peretz told Channel 13 News, however, that an indictment would rule out such a tie-up.

The general election will take place on September 17, and Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing is set for October 2 and 3.

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Peretz also characterized his joining forces last week with Orli Levi-Abekasis, chairwoman of the Gesher party, as “a chance to win,” otherwise Labor would suffer “sure defeat.”

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Peretz told Channel 13 that he had pledged to try to bring voters over from Likud to Labor.

“I’m not at war with Kahol Lavan,” he said, referring to the centrist party led by Benny Gantz. “What would that give us? It gives us the same number. Zero. The time has come to make a brave move and try to beat Netanyahu.”

Speaking in Ra’anana on Saturday, the head of the left-wing party Meretz, Nitzan Horowitz, said about the Labor-Gesher ticket: “A vote for Labor is a vote for Netanyahu.” Horowitz called on voters opposed to Netanyahu to “be careful of Peretz and Levi-Abekasis. They are the first who will bolt to a Netanyahu government.”

Horowitz said Peretz had told him that he had decided “not to go with Meretz, and by the way not to go with anyone from the left, but to turn right. Maybe he thinks he can bring over voters from the right or move right, or join a right-wing government or get a position in a right-wing government. I don’t know.”

Levi-Abekasis said Friday she would not be part of a government with a person under indictment. “The red lines, the only red lines, are an indictment,” she told the Kan public broadcaster’s Channel 11. She added that she hoped the combined Labor-Gesher ticket would be the deciding factor in the upcoming election.

Democratic Israel chief Ehud Barak said Friday the Gesher-Labor ticket “could be the end of the party that established the state,” which would become a “niche party.”