Labor’s new leader says her party is exiting coalition, orders ministers to quit

Merav Michaeli, who opposed entry into Netanyahu-led government, says center-left faction starting new chapter ahead of March elections

Labor MK Merav Michaeli casts her vote for party leader at a polling station in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2021. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)
Labor MK Merav Michaeli casts her vote for party leader at a polling station in Tel Aviv, on January 24, 2021. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

In her first act as Labor leader, MK Merav Michaeli announced Monday that she was pulling the center-left party from the transitional coalition and ordered ministers Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli to resign from their cabinet posts.

“The Labor party is leaving the corrupt Netanyahu-Gantz government. I have informed Peretz and Shmuli they must resign the government as soon as possible. Labor is starting anew,” she wrote on Twitter.

There was no immediate comment from Economy Minister Peretz or Welfare Minister Shmuli.

Michaeli on Sunday won the Labor leadership primaries, taking over the storied center-left party from Peretz, as it faces possible extinction in the March 23 general elections.

Her order on Monday appeared aimed at exacting retribution against the two Labor politicians, who despite repeated election promises never to serve under a prime minister facing criminal indictment, leaped into the government in May when offered the chance.

After Peretz took Labor into the Benjamin 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.

In her victory speech on Sunday, she offered thinly veiled criticism of her predecessors. “You, who they lied to and deceived and took your vote, come home. Come to a home of truth,” she told voters.

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 and no recent opinion poll has predicted it would enter the next Knesset.

The Labor leadership field was cleared for Michaeli after Peretz announced earlier this month that he would step aside as party chief and not run in the upcoming elections. The party’s No. 2, Shmuli, later declared that he would not be running in the primary and that he had decided to leave Labor altogether.

Labor MKs Itzik Shmuli (L) and Amir Peretz at the party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv on February 13, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90/File)

Michaeli has said she is open to joining with another party before the election in order to increase Labor’s chances of passing the electoral threshold, but only if they are an “ideological ally.” The Kan public broadcaster reported Sunday morning that if she won, she was likely to sign an agreement to run with The Israelis.

As the results of the leadership race were announced, Channel 13 news published a poll predicting a Michaeli-led Labor would squeak past the electoral threshold into the Knesset if it ran alone.

Labor will hold its party primaries on February 1, three days before the final deadline to register the parties before the March elections, at which time all alliances must be finalized.

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