Merav Michaeli is a new face for the Israeli Left

After a long absence from the political scene, the Israeli Labour Party has a new leader, returning hope to a cause thought lost.

The last 12 years of Israeli politics have been dominated by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The right wing leader has continuously succeeded in forming coalitions with parties that only become more extreme with every election. In that time we’ve also seen the virtual extinction of the Israeli Labour Party, though Merav Michaeli is now working tirelessly to put the center left back on the political agenda.

A former journalist known for her strong feminist views, Michaeli is one of the only members of her party not to have joined Netanyahu’s government. She is firmly opposed to what she views as a divisive and hateful rhetoric.

Other members of the Labour Party have proved more opportunistic, however. Although not supporters of right-wing ideology, they witnessed the severe losses of their party and joined the winning camp in order to salvage the remains of their political careers. But not Michaeli.

Israël’s other priorities have eclipsed the real political issues of our modern era. Nowhere in the recent election campaign were there discussions on equality, religious freedom, or peace within the Middle Eastern region.

These issues are important and need to be at the forefront of policy-making. Michaeli highlights that much of the population, especially younger members, agrees with the need for a welfare state, more civic equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Going even further, she believes that the two state solution is still something Israël should be pursuing because the support is there, it just needs to be effectively harnessed.

First and foremost for Michaeli’s Labour Party is the removal of Netanyahu from power. Only then can people begin talking about the issues that really matter to Israël.

This is an extremely difficult task. The assassination of the last Labour Prime Minister, Yahtzik Rabin in 1995, led to the complete delegitimization of Labour, a campaign largely orchestrated by Netanyahu. Since then, the right-wing element of Israeli politics has dominated discourse in the media. The monopoly over the press that Netanyahu holds leaves very little space for alternative perspectives.

For a long time, Merav Michaeli has been operating as an almost one-woman opposition to Netanyahu’s government. She wants to make real change and to do this, the left needs to unite around one credible and competent voice.

She has the support to do this. Women and young people identify with her policies. Her staunch opposition to the current ruling party has been successful in garnering votes. In the March 23rd election of this year, the Labour Party won 6% of the vote, allowing for 7 seats in the Knesset. While this may seem minimal compared to the majority the party once experienced, this is a huge step for further growth.

Slowly but surely, the Israeli left will be brought back. Michaeli is sure of this. Her leading role in the party gives hope for a revival of competitive democracy, increased freedoms and a more peace-oriented approach to foreign policy.

 

This article was originally written by Julie Luebken, a student at the University of Cambridge interested in digital politics, climate justice, and international relations. View her LinkedIn.

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