yossi beilin 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Meretz Party has begun wooing disgruntled Labor members following the publication of a letter in which five Labor MKs advocate leaving the coalition rather than sit with Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman.
"All Labor Knesset members who are not willing to sell their soul in exchange for power, must leave the party that, at this very moment, is ending its historic role," said Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin.
Beilin has announced that in the coming days he hopes to meet with the five MKs who signed the letter, in addition to others who have expressed dissatisfaction with their party leader, Defense Minister Amir Peretz. MKs Avishay Braverman, Danny Yatom, Nadia Hilu, Ghaleb Majadle, and Shelly Yacimovich signed the letter while Ministers Ophir Paz-Pines and Eitan Cabel also expressed anger at Lieberman's inclusion in the coalition.
"Sitting [in a government] with Lieberman would help legitimize both him as a leader and his policies regarding the expulsion of Arabs. It would harbor a Netanyahu-style economic policy and a diplomatic deadlock that could lead to a military escalation," read the letter.
"There is a general feeling of discontent in the party," said Hilu. "Especially among the Arab constituents who have been long-time Labor supporters." Hilu, an Arab Christian from Jaffa, said that since the announcement of Lieberman's inclusion in the coalition, she has received dozens of phone calls from angry Arab constituents, many of whom are threatening to leave the party.
On Saturday Hilu and Majadle, the head of the party's Arab voter drive, will meet with representatives from Labor's Arab constituency to discuss possible solutions to their current situation.
While Hilu stressed that she was not currently planning on leaving Labor, other MKs who signed the letter said they would take the meeting with Beilin "very seriously."
"When the party you are a part of no longer comes to represent your beliefs, you must ask yourself whether you are in the right place," said one MK who signed the letter. He asked to remain anonymous as he had not yet decided how he would respond to Beilin's overture.
Several prominent Labor figures have threatened to leave the party in recent days. Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg said that he would quit the party if they stayed in a coalition with Israel Beiteinu.
While Burg no longer runs on the party's Knesset list, he campaigned for the party during the recent election.
Meanwhile, Avraham Mitzna, the former Labor chairman, has said that Peretz would never be able to recover from his decision to accept Lieberman in the coalition. Mitzna said that elections for a new Labor chairman should be held as soon as possible.
Since the announcement Monday that Israel Beiteinu had signed a deal to join the government, Arab MKs and Arab organization had decried the move as tantamount to "advocating racism." MKs Ahmed Tibi and Muhammad Barakei have both lashed out at the government, with Tibi saying that the inclusion of Lieberman in the coalition showed the "true fascist colors" of the government.