Senior Labor lawmaker MK Amir Peretz and party director general Eran Hermoni penned a letter to chairman MK Avi Gabbay on Tuesday, calling on him to schedule a vote within 30 days to choose a new leader due to the looming possibility that Israel will hold its second election in a matter of months.
Gabbay led the Labor party to its worst ever electoral result of six seats in April’s elections and has told associates that he will not run again for the faction’s top spot.
Peretz and Hermoni urged Gabbay to arrange a vote by the 3,400 members of the party conference — a central administrative body — to pick a temporary leader until actual primaries, in which all party members can vote, are held at a later date.
MK Itzik Shmuli, who is No. 3 on the party’s slate, told the Ynet news site that he is a “natural candidate for the position,” throwing his hat into the race.
The party No. 2 is Tal Russo, a former head of the army’s Southern Command, who was tapped in mid-February by Gabbay to fill the second slot on the party’s ticket. However, Russo has no previous political experience, having only ended his military career two years ago.
In the last Knesset, Labor ran together with the Hatnua party as the Zionist Union combined faction, which won 24 seats, 19 of which were Labor. Gabbay dismantled the Zionist Union, ending his partnership with Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, without warning her, on live television in January ahead of the April 9 elections.
Earlier this month the Labor Party moved toward holding a new leadership contest by calling for a party conference early next month, where members of its central committee were to be asked to approve a primary for November. In their letter Tuesday, Peretz and Hermoni noted that so far no date has yet been set for the conference meeting.
Even before the current threat of fresh Knesset elections, Peretz recently called for a temporary leader to be chosen from among the party’s Knesset list, to serve in the position for a year and a half until primaries can held closer to another general election.
However, with coalition talks at an impasse and a bill to dissolve parliament having passed a first reading on Monday, elections could be called for as soon as autumn.
Some 30 hours before the deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition, Likud was pressing ahead with a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call new elections, amid a standoff in negotiations to form a coalition.
Netanyahu has yet to ink a deal with any of his prospective partners, and progress has stalled amid an impasse between the secular Yisrael Beytenu and ultra-Orthodox parties on the question of a bill regulating the military draft among the ultra-Orthodox.
While advancing the possibility of snap elections, Netanyahu has been working feverishly to reach a deal with his would-be coalition partners.