Labor to decide date for key convention today

Likudniks call for expanding coalition

Isaac Herzog
Labor leader Isaac Herzog and the party’s secretary-general, MK Hilik Bar, will hold a crucial meeting on Monday to decide when to hold a convention that will kick off a race for the party chairmanship.
The party’s bylaws require a leadership primary to be held within 14 months of a general election, i.e. by May 17, 2016.
Labor’s institutions already decided to postpone the vote for at least three months but hold a convention this month to decide how to handle the race.
While some lawmakers in the party such as Eitan Cabel and Amir Peretz want to delay the primary for as long as possible, Herzog’s main critics, MKs Shelly Yacimovich and Erel Margalit, could push for it to be held soon, in order to capitalize on the current criminal investigation against him.
Margalit, who has been running a negative campaign against Herzog, posted a video of himself speaking at former prime minister and Labor chairman Yitzhak Rabin’s grave on his Facebook page and hinting that Herzog was betraying Rabin’s legacy.
“I have heard over the last few days about contacts of people in my party about joining the government,” Margalit said. “We have to say clearly that we are not joining [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. We want to replace Netanyahu and his government.”
Margalit called upon “leaders in our party” to say out loud that Labor is going to return to power rather than seek political patronage positions in the government.
“Whoever is talking about entering the Netanyahu government and joining the right-wing extremists betrays and spits on Rabin’s legacy,” Margalit said.
Herzog has not hinted publicly recently that he wants to enter the government. But his political ally, Histadrut labor federation chief Avi Nissenkorn, said it openly to the Knesset Channel on Sunday.
“I am in favor of a national unity government, because Israel is too divided and has too many problems,” Nissenkorn said. “Labor can help advance socioeconomic issues by joining the government.”
Likud MK David Bitan, whom Netanyahu has asked to become coalition chairman, told Israel Radio on Sunday that a new coalition can be built with Labor focusing on socioeconomic issues.
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) said she expects the coalition to be expanded soon, to better deal with diplomatic and security issues Israel is facing.
“Of course we want to broaden the government, but without sacrificing our principles,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) told Army Radio.
But Bar and Cabel said it would not happen.
“I can understand that there are those who want our votes in the Knesset, but our votes belong to a different path than that of the current government on both diplomatic and socioeconomic issues,” Herzog’s political partner, MK Tzipi Livni, told Army Radio.
“It is better to be an alternative.”