Young guard grab top spots in Labor primary; Barlev and Shai seemingly ousted

Neophyte lawmakers Naama Lazimi, Gilad Kariv, Efrat Rayten, Ram Shefa, and Emilie Moatti at top of roster behind party leader Merav Michaeli

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Labor MK Naama Lazimi reacts to the results of the Labor party primary elections in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Labor MK Naama Lazimi reacts to the results of the Labor party primary elections in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A crop of young lawmakers led by freshman MK Naama Lazimi held their coming out party Tuesday, garnering top spots in a Labor primary that also saw two ministers from the faction’s old guard likely shunted from power.

Lawmakers Naama Lazimi, Gilad Kariv, Efrat Rayten, Ram Shefa, and Emilie Moatti clinched the second through sixth spots, respectively, in a gender-alternating list behind Labor party leader Merav Michaeli, the party announced Tuesday night. All five are relative newcomers to Knesset politics.

Veteran lawmaker and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, meanwhile, fell from second place on the party slate to ninth, while Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, another longtime MK, fell from eighth place to 17th, leaving both of them unlikely to make it back into the Knesset.

Over 20,000 members cast ballots in the party’s primary Tuesday, as factions look to set their electoral roster ahead of November 1 elections.

Placing seventh on the list, newcomer Yaya Fink won the highest spot for a new candidate. Labor is currently polling between five and six seats, placing him within striking range of a Knesset debut.

Lazimi, 36, was a vocal advocate for social economic causes during her freshman Knesset term. She was one of the supporters behind an effort to raise the minimum wage and also fought for state compensation for families evacuated at the end of last year from Tel Aviv’s Givat Amal Bet neighborhood.

Labor leader and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli with MKs and party members after the results were announced in the Labor party primary elections, in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A reform rabbi, Kariv, 48, chaired the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee over the last year. Rayten, 50, heads the Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee, while Shefa, 37, is the party’s faction leader. Moatti, 42, has carved out a niche promoting the Knesset’s international ties and advocating for steps to improve relations with Palestinians.

Fink, who is national religious, is best known for founding Lobby 99, which lobbies MKs on behalf of public interests. He also started Darkenu, which led protests against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Democrat TV, a web-based left-leaning news channel.

Barlev had a rocky term as minister responsible for Israel’s Police, which was the subject of a number of scandals under his leadership, from claims regarding the use of phone hacking tech to allegations that officers failed to respond speedily to a terror attack.

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

Barlev was also criticized for fumbling a mention of “settler violence,” making a widely-criticized flub at a terror victim’s funeral that appeared to show confusion about the status of security events, and for attempting to then joke about the faux pas.

Michaeli is said to have preferred a list that would return sitting lawmakers to her Knesset rolls and Tuesday’s primary delivered. Part of the leadership of a diverse coalition that frayed on ideological issues, Michaeli harped on her tested slate’s reliability.

In the past Knesset, Labor was a standout among parties for maintaining coalition discipline, a message Michaeli has increasingly sought to drive home since the November 1 elections emerged on the horizon.

MK Naama Lazimi casts her vote in the Labor primaries, at a polling station in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“With us, there aren’t MKs who break promises, who vote wildly, who boycott and in the end, break what we built,” Michaeli said, in pointed comments aimed at erstwhile coalition partners who rebelled against their parties, helping bring down the government. “The Labor party is an island of stability and an island of truth that you can rely upon.”

The party, which ruled the country almost singlehandedly for Israel’s first quarter century, has been wrought by a series of shakeups and failed mergers and relaunches in recent years, going through a long list of leaders and losing its place as the top opposition party.

Michaeli used the primary announcement to stump for votes, saying her party’s platform should have wide appeal to fundamental values

“We’ll do everything to show the Israeli public that there is almost nothing that the Labor party believes in that they don’t want,” she said.

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