The Labor party voted by a margin of close to two to one on Sunday evening to approve chairman Amir Peretz’s proposal to join the emergency government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing-religious bloc and Benny Gantz’s center-left Blue and White.
Like Gantz, Peretz had been saying all along for a year that he would not sit in a government with PM Netanyahu, whose trial on corruption charges begins next week. But, like Gantz, he has defended the reversal as being in the national interest during a major health crisis.
Peretz’s initiative was strongly opposed by veteran Labor MK Merav Michaeli, who warned that it would spell the party’s demise.
But members of the central committee thought otherwise. They voted to enter the government, 2,248 to 1,219, with 90 percent of those eligible casting ballots.
After the vote of confidence was officially in, Peretz told the party that far from destroying the party by joining a right-wing government, it would save it by joining a broad unity government.
“This evening we won the backing of an overwhelming majority of delegates to become a force for social democracy in the incoming government, and to implement sweeping economic changes in the daily lives of Israeli citizens.
“We are not joining a right-wing government,” Peretz emphasized. “We are joining a unity government, an equitable government with a rotation agreement [for prime minister]. Our strategic cooperation with Benny Gantz will restore the Labor movement to its place as a leading political movement that has real influence in Israel,” Peretz said.
Michaeli did not call to congratulate the winner.
Instead, she accused Peretz and his ally MK Itzik Shmuli of perpetrating the “worst act of political con-man-ship, stealing the votes of the Israelis who chose them.”
She denounced the coalition agreement as “an embarrassing collection of lies and distortions,” and that many others in Labor would have voted against it had there been a secret ballot. They only voted for it, she contended, because of “violent pressure” to avoid losing their jobs.
Peretz is set to become Minister of the Economy, and Shmuli will be head of the Welfare Ministry.
Peretz was head of the Histadrut before joining Labor and getting elected chairman, and then served as Defense Minister.