Labor party calls primaries for February 12

60,000 voters around the country will select center-left party’s slate for April elections

Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor Party, at a conference marking the party's 50th anniversary in Tel Aviv, April 24, 2018. (Gili Yaari/FLASH90)
Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor Party, at a conference marking the party's 50th anniversary in Tel Aviv, April 24, 2018. (Gili Yaari/FLASH90)

The Labor Party will hold primary elections on February 12 to finalize its Knesset slate ahead of the upcoming national elections.

Party leader Avi Gabbay and secretary-general Eran Hermoni decided together on the date, which is one week after the ruling Likud party holds its own primaries, the party said.

Labor has 60,000 members around the country.

Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party together make up the center-left Zionist Union faction, which has slumped in opinion polls over the past few months —  from its current 24 seats to a predicted haul of fewer than 10.

Last week, five Zionist Union MKs were said to be planning to leave for other parties as Gabbay and Livni appeared to be at loggerheads over how best to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s LIkud in the April 9 elections.

Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay and MK Tzipi Livni at a Knesset faction meeting on November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Last Tuesday, Livni, the opposition leader, called for the country’s centrist and leftist parties to “put our egos aside” and unite to unseat Netanyahu.

She would be the first to give up pride of place on a new unity slate, she told a crowd at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

The comments sparked an angry retort from aides to Gabbay, who interpreted her call as urging the center-left to unite behind Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid.

“She needs to set her ego aside first,” a source close to Gabbay told Hadashot TV news at the time, adding that Livni was free to leave the Zionist Union if she wished.

While polls have generally showed Likud well ahead of any challengers, the political field has been dramatically altered by the establishment over the past week of three new parties, and others expected soon.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz registered his new Israel Resilience party, which polls predict will draw significant votes away from the Zionist Union, gaining at least 14 seats in the elections.

In addition, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked split away from their national-religious Jewish Home party to form the New Right party in a bid, they said, to appeal to both religious and secular voters. Widely divergent polls published Sunday gave the party anywhere from six to 14 seats if elections were held now.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, left, and Education Minister Nafatli Bennett, seen annoucing the formation of their New Right party, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Meanwhile, independent MK Orly Levy-Abekasis formed the Gesher party, which polls have seen hovering around the minimum four-seat threshold for entry into the Knesset.

Last Wednesday, MKs voted to dissolve the Knesset and set elections for April, some five months before their scheduled date.

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