Labor votes to join Netanyahu coalition, violates key campaign promise

After winning only three seats in the Knesset, Labor voted on Sunday to break its campaign promise never to sit in a government with Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Associated Press

Israel’s left-wing Labor party voted on Sunday to join the incoming government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Labor’s about-face arrived after repeated campaign promises to never sit in a government with Netanyahu due to the ongoing corruption probe he faces. Netanyahu denies guilt on all charges in the matter.

In the most recent election in March, Labor netted a mere three seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament, a historic low for a party that dominated Israeli politics for the country’s first three decades.

In the current government, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud is the largest faction, with 36 seats.

Around 3,800 members of Labor’s central committee were eligible to vote electronically on party leader Amir Peretz’s proposal to join the unity government headed by Netanyahu and his main political adversary, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party.

The measure reportedly passed by a roughly 60-40 margin.

After three deadlocked national elections in just over a year, Gantz and Netanyahu agreed earlier this month to form an “emergency” government to address the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.

Unemployment has shot up to over 25% since the beginning of March as many businesses were forced to close due to measures implemented to prevent the virus’ spread. The Health Ministry has reported over 15,000 cases and 200 deaths as of Sunday evening.

As part of their unity deal, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to share the premiership, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister the first 18 months and Gantz serving the next 18 months.

Gantz, however, has come under heavy criticism for abandoning his promises never to sit in a government with an indicted prime minister.

Netanyahu is scheduled to face trial next month on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.

Under the coalition deal, Labor would receive two government ministries.

One of those would-be ministers, Itzik Shmuli, said on Twitter that entering the government was the right thing to do and would allow the party to promote its social agenda.

The Netanyahu-Gantz agreement includes a clause to advance plans to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, starting on July 1, a move that the Palestinian leadership opposes in no uncertain terms.