Omer Barlev to challenge Herzog to head Labor
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Omer Barlev to challenge Herzog to head Labor

Former head of elite IDF brigade says State of Israel and Labor Party need 'honest, courageous leadership'

Zionist Camp MK Omer Barlev attends a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Camp MK Omer Barlev attends a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lawmaker Omer Barlev, a former head of an elite IDF commando unit, on Friday became the third Labor Party member to formally announce he is challenging party leader Isaac Herzog in upcoming elections.

Barlev, 63, announced his candidacy with a Facebook post.

“The State of Israel, as well as the Labor Party, deserves honest, brave, dedicated, pugnacious and a united leadership. The time has come to fight again for our place leading the country,” he wrote.

“The State of Israel needs to change direction. The State of Israel needs courageous leadership,” he wrote.

Barlev follows former party leader Amir Peretz in announcing his candidacy for leadership of the party, to be decided in July’s primary. However, Eldad Yaniv and MK Erel Margalit have announced that they are considering bids, as is veteran party MK Eitan Cabel, and former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich (left) and former party leader Amir Peretz (right) in 2011. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Then Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich (left) and former party leader Amir Peretz (right) in 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

There was speculation that former party leader Shelly Yachimovich would also mount another bid for leadership but that was quashed when she announced in February that she will seek to become the head of the Histadrut labor federation in the organization’s elections in May.

On Thursday recordings were leaked which appeared to show that Yachimovich made a pact with Cabel to support him in a bid for party leadership in exchange for his backing in the Histadrut elections. Yachimovich and Cabel both denied they had made any such deal.

Barlev entered politics in 2012, and was selected as seventh on the party’s list. He was elected to the Knesset in 2013.

A former commander of Israel’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit, Barlev was involved in many operations, including the raid on Entebbe. He serves as a colonel in the IDF reserves and advocates for limited withdrawal from parts of the West Bank if negotiations with the Palestinians break down.

He serves as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and several other committees concerned with the rights of Arab minorities and those on the periphery.

Barlev recently returned from the J Street national conference where he spoke, along with Meretz’s Tamar Sandberg, Kulanu’s Akram Hasson (the only coalition member speaking) and Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint (Arab) List.

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