Labor Party drops Meretz, poised to join government

Labor Party splits from far-left Meretz, citing health crisis has priority. 

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Labor Party leader Amir Peretz put the nail in the coffin of the left-wing coalition in Israel, announcing his party was pulling out of its partnership with the far-left Meretz Party.

Israeli media reports Sunday indicated Peretz and at least one other member of his three-seat Knesset faction would join a national unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Peretz tweeted that he was ending the pact, which saw the unified list of Labor, Meretz and the centrist Gesher Party win only seven seats in the March 2 election.

Gesher leader Orli Levy Abekasis, a Netanyahu opponent and the only member of her party to get elected, split last month to sit alone in the 120-seat parliament.

Before the election the three parties feared each alone might not reach the minimum votes needed to get into the Knesset and decided to combine their efforts to run as a single party.

Peretz said he was notifying the Knesset of the split in the list and that his party would be sitting on its own. Just over a week ago opposition leader Benny Gantz shocked the country by going back on a pre-election vow to never serve in a government under Netanyahu.

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Gantz said the economic and health crisis facing the country was serious enough to sacrifice his political future and join in a unity government.

Peretz had also campaigned on the same promise to never join a coalition headed by Netanyahu and went so far as to shave off his signature bushy mustache last fall so that voters could “read his lips.”

He and party member Itzik Shmuli are expected to join the government, but Labor member Meirav Michaeli  said over the weekend she “will not be part of any move that will advance the entry of the Labor Party into the corrupt Netanyahu government.”

An angry Meretz Party member Tamar Zandberg blasted Peretz for betraying voters, calling him “an opportunist and a cheat.”

“The fact that Amir Peretz is finally creeping into the Netanyahu government is a huge deception of our voters who wanted a different government,” Zandberg tweeted.

As negotiations on the makeup of the government continued, officials from Netanyahu’s Likud Party said “the chances of signing an agreement and the agreement blowing up are equal.” 

Negotiations are apparently hung up on a Likud demand to pursue legislation to annex some Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, while Gantz wants a promise of a half-year freeze on any annexation moves while the country focuses on the coronavirus fight.