Labor Party will return to glory, gov't will remain stable - Michaeli

Labor head and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli discussed the current political tensions, Israel's place in the region, and plans for Israel's transportation.

 Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli speaks during a press conference in Ashdod port, southern Israel,. April 6, 2022. (photo credit: FLASH90)
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli speaks during a press conference in Ashdod port, southern Israel,. April 6, 2022.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Labor Party leader and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli is hopeful that renegade legislator Idit Silman will not bolt the coalition in the end.

Many people are talking to Silman and there is still a possibility that she will stay, Michaeli told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday. “I know she is a person who seeks to do good,” she said.

A former journalist herself, and no stranger to the FPA, Michaeli warned that freedom of the press is something “never to be taken for granted.”

Moving to the subject of the ongoing unrest in Jerusalem, she spoke of a widespread abuse of power and incitement to violence against others, asserting that this was not unique to Jews and Arabs. It posed a challenge all over the world where radical forces oppose those who believe in human equality.

“It’s not a uniquely Israeli problem,” she insisted, “but one for international forces who believe in the genuine peace that humanity needs to move forward.”

 Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and MK Idit Silman attend a press conference in the Israeli parliament discussing the working conditions of Israeli medical interns. (credit: YONATAN ZINDEL/FLASH 90) Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and MK Idit Silman attend a press conference in the Israeli parliament discussing the working conditions of Israeli medical interns. (credit: YONATAN ZINDEL/FLASH 90)

Turning to her role as head of the Labor Party, Michaeli said that “Labor almost came to zero before these elections. I am committed to seeing that Labor should go back to becoming the ruling party of the Liberal left in Israel.”

Parties from which Labor has been alienated are coming back, she said, adding that Labor stands for the same values that accompanied the establishment of the State of Israel. “complete equality – freedom of religion, freedom of faith, freedom of culture and freedom of movement.”

On the peace track, she said that Labor is committed to reaching a political solution with Israel’s neighbors “who are enemies now, but may not be in the future.”

Having recently visited some of Israel’s comparatively new allies in the region, Michaeli said that she knows that they want to be part of the region’s solution.

As for the coalition’s survival, the Labor leader admitted that challenges confronted a coalition of eight different ideologies, but emphasized that its creation “stopped a severe political crisis.”

She was cautiously optimistic that the coalition will endure because it is “saving democracy from political chaos.” For this reason, “all of us are working to keep this coalition going.”

Asked whether there was a chance that the coalition would be expanded, Michaeli responded that the two Orthodox parties have tied themselves to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, which does not leave a window open for them to join the coalition. “It’s not about the coalition; it’s them,” she said.

On the subject of transportation, she was asked about the proposed Peace Train which is supposed to run from Haifa through to the Emirates. Michaeli could not say whether the route will include Saudi Arabia. “It depends on the relationship,” she said. “But we need to create the infrastructure so that will be possible when it is possible.”

Meanwhile, on the home front, the immediate challenge is to wean Israelis away from private automobiles and toward greater use of public transport. Michaeli is convinced that once they realize that they have new options, people will go for it, “though it will take time to reverse the mind-set,” she acknowledged.

Prior to her appointment with the FPA, Michaeli, together with the Turkish Chargé d’Affaires, inaugurated Israel’s first electric minibus in which the two went for a test drive around Jerusalem. The bus was built by a Turkish firm, yet another sign of warming relations between Turkey and Israel.