Labor Party Votes on Unity With Likud

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
People keep social distance amid concerns over the country’s coronavirus outbreak, during a “Black Flag” protest against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, on Motzoei Shabbos. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The Labor party is voting Sunday on proposal to join a government headed by arch-rival Binyamin Netanyahu despite repeated campaign promises to never sit with a prime minister facing criminal indictments.

The once-mighty left-wing party dominated Israeli politics for the country’s first three decades, but has since fallen to a historic low of six seats in the Knesset.

Around 3,800 members of Labor’s central committee will vote electronically on party leader Amir Peretz’s proposal to join the unity government headed by Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party.

After three deadlocked national elections in just over a year, Gantz and Netanyahu agreed last week to form a unity government to address the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.

As part of their unity deal, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to share the premiership, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister the first 18 months and Gantz serving the next 18 months.

Netanyahu is scheduled to face trial next month on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. He denies the charges.

Peretz wrote on social media last week that joining the Netanyahu-Gantz government would put the six-seat party “back in political center stage.”

“We are joining an equal unity government with a rotation in the role of prime minister, not a right-wing government,” he said.

But allying with Netanyahu runs against repeated campaign promises by Peretz, who shaved his decades-old signature mustache on video last year.

“Now everybody can read my lips,” he said. He then pledged never to join a Netanyahu-led government.

The Netanyahu-Gantz agreement also includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of Yehudah and Shomron, starting on July 1.

Peretz has said he would oppose such a move from within the government. But some Labor supporters believe that by joining Netanyahu’s government, the party will be accessory to dismantling the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians spearheaded by Labor prime minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Labor MK Merav Michaeli appealed to party members to reject joining the government.

“Voters will retaliate against us for this disgrace, and the glorious Labor party of Ben Gurion and Rabin will simply be erased,” she said in a video Sunday.