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Israel’s struggling Labor party chooses new leader

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Labor Party on Sunday chose Merav Michaeli, a veteran lawmaker and former journalist, as its new leader ahead of March elections.

Michaeli, 54, faces a difficult task as she tries to revive the fortunes of the iconic party.

Labor guided Israel to independence in 1948 and led the country for its first three decades. But it has struggled to remain relevant over the past two decades as peacemaking with the Palestinians ground to a halt and the electorate appears to have embraced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line ideology. Opinion polls have forecast Labor will not receive the minimum number of votes needed to enter the next parliament.

Michaeli has been a leading progressive voice in the Knesset, or parliament, supporting women’s rights, LGBT causes and the rights of workers in addition to seeking peace with the Palestinians. Media reports said she received 77% of the vote in a party primary, trouncing a handful of rivals.

In a message to supporters posted on Facebook, Michaeli urged people to “come home.”

“I call on people who feel that politics doesn’t represent them, to those who feel that politics doesn’t hear their voice, come home,” she said. “Even if the Labor Party wasn’t your home in the past, I promise to represent all of you.”

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