Israel's Labour party agrees to join Netanyahu-led coalition

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel's left-wing Labour party, traditionally a staunch opponent of right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, voted Sunday to join a coalition government he is set to lead.

At a party conference held virtually because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, 64.2 percent of nearly 3,500 voting Labour delegates endorsed the alliance agreed last week between Netanyahu and his centrist election rival Benny Gantz.

"We are not joining a right-wing government," Labour leader Amir Peretz said in a statement.

"We are joining an egalitarian unity government with power-sharing."

Labour had backed Gantz's efforts to form a government following Israel's three inconclusive elections over the past year.

But the former army chief was unable to forge a viable governing coalition, given the deep divisions within the anti-Netanyahu bloc.

Last week, Netanyahu and Gantz signed a three-year coalition agreement that ends the political stalemate and sees the job of prime minister rotating between the two men.

Netanyahu will serve as premier for 18 months, with Gantz as his alternate. They will switch roles midway through the deal.

Labour, Israel's founding political party, which has repeatedly led the country since its creation in 1948, has seen its political fortunes whither.

It only earned three out of 120 parliamentary seats in the country's March 2 vote.

In joining the prospective coalition, Peretz is expected to be named economy minister, while another party official is likely to be named social affairs minister.

Labour's endorsement offers a boost to the coalition government, which is likely to be finalised and sworn in over the coming days.