The Labor Party leader took pride in the fact that under her leadership, Labor became the first-ever Knesset list which was split completely evenly between men and women.
Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Saturday on a range of subjects, from the party’s plans in the 2021 Israel Election on Tuesday, the impact of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israel’s political system and how to turn Israel into a more just society.
Regarding the ongoing political dysfunction in Israel, Michaeli said that it is rooted in Netanyahu’s first stint in the political sphere during the early 1990s. She said that Netanyahu introduced new language and set of standards that led to a campaign of incitement against late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing extremist, as well as against the Oslo Accords, peace, the left and Arabs.
“This campaign by Netanyahu and his partners, [aided] by very big financial powers that are backing right-wing powers [in] Israel [are] continuing to this day. And the result is what we are seeing today, a political camp that is completely fractured and has no political power almost. But at the same time, we see that the majority of Israelis actually want what Labor has to offer,” Michaeli said.
“…Israel is not Netanyahu, the majority of Israelis are interested in equality, gender equality, gay rights, in civil equality, for Arab citizens. They are interested in a welfare state…in pluralism, freedom of religion… there is still a tiny majority supporting the two-state solution even if many people are completely convinced that it’s unachievable.”
On the issue of Netanyahu’s past successes in forming government, Michaeli said it was due to support from within the Center-Left bloc, from Ehud Barak in 2009, Yair Lapid in 2013 and Benny Gantz most recently.
Michaeli also spoke of the corruption cases against Netanyahu and the need to replace him as prime minister.
“We’ve seen very distinctly that ever since Netanyahu was first interrogated he has been constantly attacking the democratic institutions in Israel; the police and now the justice system and the Supreme Court and the attorney-general,” Michaeli said.
“I think it’s very clear to many of Israel’s citizens how dangerous it is to have a prime minister in such a situation while he’s using his position to weaken Israeli democracy,” she said, stating that this was the reason it was necessary for a 61-seat coalition to be built blocking him from remaining in power.
If such a scenario does eventually unfold, Michaeli said “it will be the responsibility of all the chairs of the different parties who are very far apart in their ideologies and the way they see the future of Israel to find a consensus, even one as narrow as possible, that we can agree on and build a coalition to start the rehabilitation of Israeli politics, Israeli democracy and the State of Israel. Hopefully we can achieve that.”
Amanpour showed a short clip of an old TED Talk that Michaeli, referencing her long history of fighting for feminism and gender equality, and noting her special affinity for wearing black, said that she doesn’t want people to look at what she’s wearing, but listen to what she’s saying.
“Yes, I’m very well-known in Israel for my feminism and that’s something I actually find extremely energizing now that I’m heading a major party in Israel. That’s true for a lot of women but also for men, because we already have many men who are very interested in equality and understand how much they have to gain from a world that is egalitarian,” Michaeli said.
She took pride in the fact that under her leadership, Labor became the first-ever Knesset list which was split completely evenly between men and women, alternating seats by gender, saying the move was something she had been personally trying to achieve since she first went into politics 8 years ago.
“As soon as I was elected, this was my first decision and it just happened, like magic. Our society can be so much better, so much more just, and in a way that really derives so much more prosperity and personal security for all.”
“This is what I’ve been working towards for over 30 years now, and this is what I’ve been trying to do in politics and will continue to do in politics as, now, the chair of Labor,” she concluded.