ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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Polls show Labor falling below electoral threshold

Labor MKs seek to replace leader Michaeli, claim party’s future depends on it

Gilad Kariv, Efrat Rayten and Naama Lazimi demand chairwoman share power with them, threaten to pass series of motions against her if she doesn’t comply

Shalom Yerushalmi is the political analyst for Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew current affairs website

Labor party leader MK Merav Michaeli at a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor party leader MK Merav Michaeli at a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on January 2, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fed up with the conduct of party leader Merav Michaeli, Labor’s other three lawmakers have decided to take steps against her with the goal of eventually pushing her out of the party, according to senior party officials.

The MKs — Gilad Kariv, Efrat Rayten and Naama Lazimi — have decided to force Michaeli to make all decisions only with their agreement, eroding her authority as leader of the center-left party.

The plan was devised in extensive talks held over the past few weeks, in light of a series of opinion polls predicting the center-left Labor party, which currently holds four seats, could be wiped off the political landscape in the next election.

They claim that Michaeli has lost the remaining public legitimacy she had and is dooming the party, which led Israel for the first three decades of its existence.

“It’s very hard to come back from such a loss of public faith,” a Labor insider told The Times of Israel. “The problem is that every day our situation worsens, so we have no option but to take over the leadership ourselves.”

In conversations with the three lawmakers, the anger at Michaeli is palpable, including over the election campaign last year and the critical decision not to join forces with the left-wing Meretz party, which failed to enter the Knesset as a result, to the detriment of the bloc of parties opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Labor leader Merav Michaeli, center, with Labor party MKs Gilad Kariv, second from right, and Naama Lazimi after the results of the Labor party primaries were announced, in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

If Michaeli doesn’t agree to their demands, the MKs — who believe they are stronger than her in party institutions — intend to pass a series of decisions against her.

The source said that while the party owes its successful March 2021 election campaign, in which it won seven seats, to Michaeli, that feat “is not a reason to let her destroy us now.”

“Today the situation has flipped. We’re moving backward. We have no preparations, renewal, nothing. This is chaos,” said a senior Labor official. “In the current situation, we have no choice but to remove Michaeli.”

“Since the elections,” the official said, “we haven’t just lost our way — we’ve seen a destruction of the party’s values. People tell me we either need to quickly save the party, or bury it.”

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli arrives for a faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on November 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Labor members are seeking equal power in the party, including over budgets, party-owned assets, electoral lists and other areas, including some related to Labor’s role in the protest movement against the government’s now-frozen judicial overhaul plans.

On Sunday, Labor announced it was withdrawing from compromise talks over the overhaul, claiming that backroom deals were being cut without the party’s involvement.

A Labor official told The Times of Israel that despite their attendance at the talks, Labor representatives felt they were not wanted at the President’s Residence. “We wanted to take part in these talks, but we want to enter through the front door, not climb through a window.”

This report first appeared on The Times of Israel’s Hebrew site, Zman Yisrael.

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