Michaeli, challenger Eran Hermoni to face-off for Labor lead on Monday

Michaeli is expected to win decisively, according to two sources in the party. The question is how big a margin she will win by.

 Labor leader Merav Michaeli is seen at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Labor leader Merav Michaeli is seen at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Labor Party members will vote for their next party leader on Monday, kicking off its election season.

Incumbent party leader Merav Michaeli’s sole challenger is the party’s secretary-general, Eran Hermoni.

A lawyer by training, the 42-year-old Hermoni is a long-time party insider, and has served in his current position since 2017. He joined the party as a teenager during the tenure of former prime minister Yizhak Rabin in the early 1990s, and served as head of Labor’s “Young Guard.” He also served as head of the educational arm of the social-democratic Berl Katznelson Fund.

Hermoni’s central claim is that Labor under Michaeli is a “niche” party fighting for “crumbs” with Meretz instead of attempting to lead the country.

“Labor’s founding principle, its goal, the essence of its existence, is to be a large, broad movement that will lead the [center-left] camp,” Hermoni said. “Merav Michaeli today is not running to lead the country. But the Labor party needs to be in a place where it is running to lead the country.”

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

Who is expected to win?

Michaeli is expected to win decisively, according to two sources in the party. The question is by how big a margin she will win. A Labor leader has never been elected twice in a row, and Michaeli is hoping that a solid victory will consolidate her hold on the party, one source said.

Michaeli narrowed the playing field by pushing through an amendment to the party’s protocol, which prohibits anyone who has not been a member for at least six months from running for party chair.

This prevented any outside contender from challenging her, Hermoni claimed.

Hermoni said that if he wins, he will do everything possible to insert a “leading public figure” into the party lead and make himself No. 2. The Center-Left should be one large party, Hermoni claimed, and it needs a leader with national stature. One possibility is former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, whose name has come up a number of times in connection with the party.

"Merav Michaeli today is not running to lead the country. But the Labor party needs to be in a place where it is running to lead the country"

Eran Hermoni

Adding Eisenkot could give the party a double-digit number of mandates, Hermoni claimed.

Michaeli has repeatedly ruled out a future merger with Meretz. Hermoni, however, said that if he is elected, he will attempt to merge with a centrist party, he said. With Gantz shifting to the right due to merger with Sa’ar, this presumably means Hermoni is aiming for a merger with Yesh Atid.

Such a merger would also benefit Meretz, because it could then present itself as the only fully left-wing party, and therefore is more likely to pass the electoral threshold, Hermoni said. This makes the move a win-win, he claimed.

The next important date in the Labor primary calendar is the election for the party list, which will be held on August 9.

In addition to Labor’s current MKs, a number of newcomers announced they were joining the race.

Some of the notable names are academic and head of the Carmel Israel-Druze Center Dr. Ameer Hanipas, who is also the grandson of the Knesset’s first Druze MK; Col. (res.) Raz Karni, who retired from the IDF in 2018 after serving for nearly 30 years, first in the paratroopers and then as the legendary commander of both of the IDF Education Corps’ two major bases; and Yaya Fink, head of center-left lobby Darkenu, founder of Lobby 99 and chief of staff for former opposition and Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich.