Following Gantz, Labor Chairman to Join Netanyahu-led Unity Government

Amir Peretz will become Economy and Industry Minister, fellow Labor lawmaker Itzik Shmuli will head the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry

Benny Gantz and Amir Peretz at the memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, October 11, 2019.
Reuven Castro

Labor Chairman Amir Peretz is set to join a unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will be appointed Economy and Industry Minister, following a Sunday meeting with representatives of Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 72

Fellow Labor lawmaker Itzik Shmuli will also be joining and will head the Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, but their party colleague Merav Michaeli will remain outside the government.

The portfolios they will receive will be part of the quota that Netanyahu allocated to Gantz's faction.

Michaeli convened an emergency meeting via video conference call Sunday to try to convince Peretz not to side with Netanyahu. Former ministers and Knesset members from the party also took part in the video call to try to change Peretz's mind, as did dozens of activists.

Furthermore, Michaeli demands that Perez immediately summon the Labor Central Committee in light of his willingness to join a Netanyahu-led government, thus breaking the party's promise to its electorate not to do so.   

Labor ran in Israel’s March 2 election on a joint left-wing slate with Meretz, who would not join Netanyahu’s government, and Orli Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher, who formally requested two weeks ago to split from the alliance.

Peretz vowed during the election campaign not to join a Netanyahu-led government, citing the premier's pending corruption trial.

Michaeli is not the only lawmaker to break ranks from their party; on Sunday, the Knesset's Arrangements Committee ruled that Kahol Lavan may split into three factions. Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya'alon's Telem broke off from Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael, which will continue to be called Kahol Lavan.

Telem’s Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser quit the party to form an independent faction called Derech Eretz, which will function within Gantz’s faction. Pnina Tamano-Shata of Yesh Atid decided to join Kahol Lavan, and Gadeer Mreeh from Hosen L’Yisrael said she would find it difficult to join a coalition headed by Netanyahu, and decided to move to Yesh Atid. 

Kahol Lavan and Labor are set to meet again on Monday and decide on the allocation of government portfolios, following marathon talks between Gantz and Netanyahu's parties on dividing the ministries. In preliminary agreements, they decided that the blocs will split them. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc will retain the finance, health and education portfolios. The Public Security Ministry, too, will remain in the hands of Netanyahu’s Likud, with Culture Minister Miri Regev taking that portfolio.

The Knesset speaker is expected to be a member of Likud, but with Gantz having veto power and the ability to prevent Yuli Edelstein from returning to the position. Netanyahu’s bloc will also keep the transportation, energy, environment, housing, Negev and Galilee development and religious affairs portfolios.

Gantz’s party will take the defense and justice portfolios, as well as the Foreign Ministry. They will also head the following ministries: communications; economy; labor; culture and sports; immigration and absorption; tourism; and science and technology.