Editorial

The Israeli Legislator Blocking a Center-left Government Must Resign

Gesher MK Orli Levi-Abekasis at a Labor-Gesher-Meretz press conference in the lead up to the March 2 election, February 9, 2020
Tomer Appelbaum

The response by Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz to the announcement by his partner, MK Orli Levi-Abekasis, that she won’t support a minority government that relies on the votes of the Arab Balad party and the wider Joint List alliance is far from sufficient.

“Despite these developments, I have no intention of lending a hand to the formation of a narrow right-wing government headed by Netanyahu,” Peretz wrote, declaring that he intends to keep striving for a government headed by Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz. The only way to put meaning into these words is to demand that Levi-Abekasis resign.

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The election results haven’t left Gantz much room for maneuver. In fact, his only chance of avoiding another election or joining a government of national corruption led by Benjamin Netanyahu is to form a minority government.

From the outset, this scenario had slim chances because, until a few days ago, the chances that Kahol Lavan’s Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid – and particularly Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman – would support Jewish-Arab cooperation looked like a fantasy. Reservations by Kahol Lavan lawmakers Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser further eroded these chances, but any hope was shattered this week when Levi-Abekasis closed off this opportunity with her selfish decision.

The strange political alliance that was taking shape between Kahol Lavan (with its opposing factions), Labor-Gesher-Meretz (with its forced union), Yisrael Beiteinu (afflicted by racism and favoring dodgy land swaps with the Palestinians) and the Joint List was based on a common understanding that overcame the issues dividing these parties: Israel’s future requires Netanyahu’s ouster.

Levi-Abekasis decided on her own to opt for a political renewal and move from the right to the left. Naturally, her move triggered much suspicion, but she, Peretz and their partners dismissed these misgivings with disdain, even alleging anti-Mizrahi racism against anyone doubting that Levi-Abekasis had ideologically abandoned the right. After many efforts at convincing people, and based on the promises by the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, people voted for the union she had joined.

Levi-Abekasis has the right to regret her transition. She has the right to realize that she can’t take the political step her camp is asking her to take. But Levi-Abekasis is part of a political puzzle that set a goal of unseating Netanyahu. This goal remains the overarching objective of the camp she decided to join – on her own initiative.

Levi-Abekasis, in her inability to take this step, is foiling a move that is much bigger than her, a move that almost all members of her camp (including her new political home) seek to make. If she can’t help, at least she shouldn’t get in the way. The minimum she owes Peretz and the voters for the slate she joined is to return her Knesset seat.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.