Labor party leader Merav Michaeli said in the past that she considered joining the right-wing Likud party before eventually settling on the left-wing movement she now heads.
Michaeli, who was voted Labor leader last month, made the revelation during an interview with the Geekonomy podcast in May 2017, Channel 13 News reported Wednesday.
Responding to the revived comments, Michaeli said she was only joking when she made them, though the wording of her response Wednesday did not entirely clear up the confusion.
In a segment from the 2017 podcast, rebroadcast by Channel 13, the left-wing lawmaker says that when she was first planning on entering politics she was drawn to Likud.
“The truth is I considered it,” she says when it is put to her during the interview that her views are similar to those of members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s party.
Michaeli, a former journalist and Haaretz columnist, then clarifies that she is talking about a period before she joined the Labor party in 2012.
“Because a few times in the past I was approached about going into politics,” she says in the podcast. “And in one of them, I said to myself, ‘If I am already going to [enter politics] then perhaps I will go to Likud.'”
She says part of her motivation was to be a sort of “Trojan horse” within Likud. However, she stresses that she has never voted for Likud but only for Labor or left-wing Meretz.
Michaeli then says she thinks she would have won a seat in parliament on the Likud party slate on her first run at the Knesset but not in later elections, “because I would not provide what was required” by the party line.
She says she chose to join Labor because she felt it was important that there be a government that is not right-wing.
Channel 13 said it spoke with a producer of the podcast who said there was no indication at the time that Michaeli was being sarcastic or trying to be funny.
In a somewhat confusingly worded response given to Channel 13 for its report, Michaeli said she had considered joining Likud years ago because senior party leaders, including Netanyahu, supported the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Netanyahu had given a speech declaring his support for the two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
“I considered joining a Likud that seemed to advocate clear left-wing positions,” Michali said in the statement. “And seriously, it’s absolutely clear that it was a joke. The Labor Party is my only party, that I have insisted on staying in and rebuilding anew.”
Michaeli was elected to the Knesset in November 2012 and has remained an MK ever since, aside from a period between April and August 2019 during which she lost her Knesset seat.
After previous Labor leader Amir Peretz took the party into the Netanyahu-led unity government, Michaeli rejected sitting in the coalition, making her a de facto opposition member within her own party, and within the coalition.
Her first move after being elected party leader was to pull Labor out of the government, prompting Pertz to resign from the party so that he could remain a minister.
Labor has seen its fortunes tumble in recent years, hit by a rightward shift among Israeli voters, turmoil in the party, and the emergence of new political players who have eroded its base. Since entering the government after the previous election, the party lost virtually all of its support.
Since Michaeli took over, however, it has rebounded somewhat and polls have indicated it could win around 6-8 seats.
Israel is heading to its fourth round of elections in two years on March 23.