Can Israel’s Labor Party return?
George M. Cohan allegedly said, “I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right”.
No one is talking about Israel’s Labor Party†. Five Minutes for Israel hopes to fill that particular gap. We hope this is controversial but fear it is already yawn worthy.
For Israel’s first three decades the Labor Party was the default government leader (in coalition, as with every Knesset) . Then in 1977 came the ‘maapach,’ roughly translated as ‘upset’ and Labor became the default opposition.
There were ups and downs. Ehud Barak was elected but the trend was downwards.
Today Labor is one of several small parties hovering dangerously close to the minimum required threshold for a party to be represented in the Knesset‡. They should be very worried. A 1.5% drop from the total votes votes would eliminate them from the Knesset.
Commentators are calling the current state of affair the plonter. That’s Hebrew slang, probably taken from Yiddish, for a tangled mess. It’s really not so hard to understand as there are only four possible outcomes.
Ironically the result Labor most wants to avoid of Bibi Netanyahu somehow cobbling together a sixty-one seat majority is Labor’s best chance. That puts Labor into opposition, hopefully for the four years governments are supposed to last, and allows them to concentrate on the prime question of survival. It would give the party some time to reinvent itself.
The custom in all Israeli governments to this point is to divide the ministries between the coalition partners, after a period of protracted negotiation. A Blue and White†† government would include Labor ministers.
Israeli ministries are a source of political power, patronage and prestige. Can anyone really see Labor fighting to gain less prestigious, less powerful ‘social’ ministries, with fewer ‘jobs-for-the-boys’? I can’t. Besides ‘partner’ Orly Levy would probably ‘demand’ a social ministry. (There’s plenty of inverted commas in this paragraph, I know).
Nor can anyone really see a Blue and White government lasting a full term. It isn’t really a political party in the sense of a shared ideology or programme. The four person leadership has little in common between themselves or the similarly diverse elected MKs except a desire to depose Netanyahu, and ambition.
And I the only one who sees a similar trend to the Kadima party?
Under those conditions Labor could end up weaker next elections as much of the population would see it as the ineffective, disposable sidekick.
An unlikely but possible scenario is a minority government with the assistance of the Joint Arab List, for one day, followed by resignation and new elections. Netanyahu would no longer be Prime Minister, would have no more than Knesset member immunity and if indicted (according to one theory) would be prevented from even running. Following the recent conflict with Gaza such a deal with the Arabs could backfire spectacularly, leading to a Likud government, without Netanyahu, massive defeat for Blue and White and oblivion for Labor.
Unless something happens in the next twenty-four hours new elections will be called.
It’s not hard to see some recent Labor voters ( I know at least two in my immediate circle of friends and relatives) casting their ballots for Blue and White to ensure they will be asked to form a government and others moving to the Democratic Union alliance for ideological purity.
Stav Shaffir, former Labor MK already jumped ship before the April election and is now an MK for the Democratic Union. Ehud Barak, twice Labor leader before forming his own faction was also on the list but too low for election.
Apology for coming so long for the meat of this post and thank you for reading this far.
Why apart from nostalgia should anyone vote Labor in the future?
Check out Part #2. (in construction)
Late breaking news 20 November 2019
Benny Gantz, of Blue and White, returned his mandate to attempt to form a government to president Rivlin. There is a 99% chance of a third election, probably 3rd of March 2020.
† About spelling the name right
The Israeli Labor Party (Hebrew: מִפְלֶגֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית, transliterated as Mifleget HaAvoda HaYisrelit is commonly known as HaAvoda literally “The Labor”. For this piece we have abandoned our usual UK English spelling of ‘Labour’ because the party uses the U.S. spelling.
‡ The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. However, the minimum required threshold for a party to be represented in the Knesset is currently 3.25% of the total votes cast. Or in other words the least seats such a party could win would be three but most likely four.
†† For those outside Israel who are a little confused. Blue and White (Hebrew: כַּחוֹל לָבָן Kaḥol Lavan) is a centrist and liberal political alliance in Israel. The party was established to run in the April 2019 Knesset elections by the Israel Resilience Party, Yesh Atid and Telem, in hopes of defeating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The four leaders are