Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s commander in the IDF, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amiram Levin, joined the crowded Labor Party leadership race Tuesday, saying that the prime minister must be replaced to fix the country.
Speaking in a live address and chat on Facebook, Levin said Israel is going in the wrong direction and that the Labor Party, which he joined in January, needs to be saved.
“Bibi, I remember you as a good officer,” Levin said. “You were good because you served for just six years. Bibi, you have been in power for too long. What you haven’t gotten done in six years, you won’t do. The sooner you go, the better.”
Levin, 70, headed the IDF’s Northern Command and was deputy head of the Mossad.
As Netanyahu faces police questioning, rivals look "post-Bibi" (credit: REUTERS)
This is his first venture into politics, though he has supported left-wing causes in the past and was a keynote speaker at last year’s Meretz convention.
“When I see what is happening, I cannot sit on the sidelines,” Levin said. “I hear that there is no chance to replace Bibi, that there is no chance to reach a regional peace agreement. I say, of course it’s possible.”
When asked why he is running for Labor head and not starting by seeking a seat in the Knesset, he said he needs to make sure Israel’s leadership is replaced. But he said that if he does not win the Labor chairmanship, he will run for Knesset.
Levin has expressed support in the past for the controversial organization Breaking the Silence, which seeks to publicize wrongdoing by IDF soldiers.
He clarified his position in the Facebook chat, saying he does not believe any group should be silenced but that he is opposed to Breaking the Silence spreading negative information about the IDF abroad.
If elected, Levin intends to focus on resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as soon as possible. He did not address socioeconomic issues.
“We will end the occupation,” Levin said. “We are strong enough to do it. I have a problem with occupying 2.7 million Palestinians. It weakens the IDF and it could lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state.”
The post is also being sought by incumbent Isaac Herzog, MKs Omer Bar Lev, Erel Margalit and Amir Peretz, former environmental protection minister Avi Gabay, former Southern Command head Yom-Tov Samia, attorney Eldad Yaniv and historian Avner Ben-Zaken.
MK Stav Shaffir is still considering running.
Peretz formally presented his candidacy to Labor Secretary- General Eran Hermoni Tuesday morning at the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters, saying he sees himself as running to be the party’s candidate for prime minister. He was accompanied by supporters, including MK Itzik Shmuli.
Along with forms required to run, he made a point of submitting a report on his finances. He challenged other candidates to do the same, hinting at wealthy candidates Margalit and Gabay.
“I believe there must be transparency and a higher ethical threshold for public figures seeking to get elected,” Peretz said. “The public has a right to know.”
Herzog also officially presented his candidacy Tuesday, calling for the building of a large center-left bloc. He said that besides Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, it should include Yesh Atid, Kulanu, former IDF chiefs of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz and Ehud Barak, former Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecasis and even former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.
If Herzog wins, it would be the first time in the party’s history that a chairman is reelected in primaries. He said that, if reelected, he would change the party’s bylaws to make it easier for the party chairman to govern.
“We need to stop chopping off the party’s head every three years,” Herzog said.
Margalit was endorsed Tuesday by IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Giora Inbar, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev president Rivka Carmi, Kiryat Shmona Mayor Nissim Malka and Galil Elyon Regional Council head Giora Zaltz.
Margalit, who has been running on a campaign in which he boasts his left-wing credentials, posted a test on his campaign website Tuesday, in which the public is invited to test how leftist they are. He calls the test a “smolanometer,” Hebrew for “leftistometer.”