Labor-Gesher

Labor-Gesher
Leader: Amir Peretz
Current Seats: 6 (As Labor Party)
Recommended candidate for prime minister in the Twenty-First Knesset: Benny Gantz (as Labor)
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Supports

The Labor Party is a social-democratic party that supports an Israeli-Palestinian settlement based on a two-state solution. Labor, whose antecedents governed Israel uninterrupted for the country’s first three decades, has fallen on hard times. The party saw its worst finish ever in April, coming out with just six seats. Labor’s much-maligned leader, Avi Gabbay, resigned in short order, retiring from politics along with Tal Russo, a former general whom Gabbay had brought into the party shortly before the last election.

In July, Labor leader Amir Peretz united the party with Orly Levy-Abekasis's center-right Gesher party, stirring controversy with Labor's left-wing base.

Several Labor members of Knesset sought to fill the vacancy opened by Gabbay’s retreat from politics. Ultimately, Amir Peretz, a former party chair and minister of defense in Ehud Olmert’s government, secured the position, while MKs Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, representing the younger, activist wing of the party, split the remainder of the vote.

Amir Peretz, who previously served as Labor leader from 2005-2007, defeated Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli to become party chair in July.

In July, Peretz united Labor with Gesher, the socio-economic issues-focused party of ex-Yisrael Beiteinu MK Orly Levy-Abekasis. Peretz and Levy-Abekasis are both of Moroccan descent, and the aim of the union is to siphon off votes from the right-wing in the poorer, more Mizrahi regions known as the “periphery,” something Peretz successfully accomplished in 2006. However, the perception of Gesher as being a center-right party as well as Levy-Abekasis’s prior association with Avigdor Liberman’s hard-right Yisrael Beiteinu have proven controversial among Labor’s left-wing base. In the wake of the Gesher merger, Stav Shaffir left the party to join Meretz and the Israel Democratic Party, while Itzik Shmuli mulled leaving too before ultimately opting to stay in. Notably, a previous iteration of Gesher led by Levy-Abekasis’s father ran on a joint ticket with Ehud Barak’s Labor in 1999.

The Labor Party emerged from a series of socialist and social-democratic parties, although its leftist economic bent has been subdued in recent decades. Under Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, the party launched the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians, and Ehud Barak became the first Israeli prime minister to formally support a two-state solution. As Israeli public confidence in a final status agreement wanes, the party has downplayed the issue of two states, with some Labor members expressing doubts about the timeline for the creation of an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza.