JPost Election Arena: Labor MK Margalit sees coalition with Yesh Atid, ultra-Orthodox

Labor MK thinks his party can overcome ideological obstacles between Yesh Atid and ultra-Orthodox.

March 15, 2015 17:12
3 minute read.

Labor's Margalit speaks with JPOST

Labor's Margalit speaks with JPOST

Labor MK Erel Margalit, a former venture capitalist and 12th on the Zionist Union list, believes his party will convince the ultra-Orthodox and Yesh Atid to sit together in an Isaac Herzgo-led coalition.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge, but I think we will,” he said in a taped interview Sunday to The Jerusalem Post Election Arena, which is available in full on “Why? Because with the ultra-Orthodox we have one big idea that we want to implement and finance, and that is [that] the employment of the ultra-Orthodox is the new economy of Israel.”

According to a Friday Channel 2 poll, the Zionist Union is expected to “win” the election with 26 seats to the Likud’s 22, but it will have to jump through difficult hoops to put together a coalition. Its natural allies of Meretz (six seats according to the poll) and Yesh Atid (12 seats) only bring it to 44 seats, far short of the 61 needed to form a coalition.

Margalit said his party had worked closely with the haredi parties in the opposition on the finance committee, calling them “natural partners” who were amenable to integrating into the labor force, though less excited about being forced into the army.

Shas’s seven seats and UTJ’s six would bring Herzog significantly closer to a majority.

Though he does not believe the Joint (Arab) List – projected in the poll to garner 13 seats – will sit in a government, Margalit expressed optimism that at least part of the list could support a Herzog-led coalition from outside.

The expected kingmaker in the election, however, is Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, who wields significant power with his eight seats because he is positioned in the center, and could help put either the Likud or Zionist Union over the necessary threshold.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to make Kahlon his finance minister. The Zionist Union has not reciprocated.

“I don’t think we’re starting negotiations before the election results are in,” Margalit said.

One final unpleasant surprise could come if likely coalition partner Meretz fails to pass the four-seat electoral threshold.

Asked if he was worried that his party might score a Pyrrhic victory by stealing one seat away from Meretz but then losing four seats worth of coalition support, Margalit replied, “Yes, I am.”

He continued: “I believe they’re going to get into the government. I think they have a very important role in the Knesset and in the government and I wish them luck.”

Turning to economic issues, Margalit parted ways from some of his more left-leaning party members on labor relations, saying he did not think it was appropriate for the Histadrut labor federation to shut down an entire region of the country over 140 workers. The union had threatened a general strike threat in the South last week over the fate of 140 workers laid off by Israel Chemicals.

That said, Margalit stated that it was important to strengthen the South by ensuring it has more sources of employment and that it was important to work with the Histadrut to negotiate much-needed reforms in parts of the economy such as the Israel Electric Corporation.

Despite moderately high growth and low unemployment, Margalit said Netanyahu and Lapid “did a terrible job in running the economy. You need to know how to push economic processes and you need to get people involved who are now left behind.”

Small businesses lacked credit and tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered in 2014, the worst year since 2008 in that regard, Margalit said. Private investment, he continued, was falling.

“Our start-up nation is a very narrow part of society. We want start-up nation: the next generation, which includes the ultra-Orthodox coming into the work force, the Arab community, the people in the Galilee, the people in the Negev, we want new ideas, new energy,” he said.

“Netanyahu has been running this country like a bookkeeper, trying not to spend more than you make,” he continued. “Israel is not a fort, Israel is a hub, and a hub needs to be treated as such, as a creative place that gets a chance and gives a chance to a lot of the citizens who are now left behind.”

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