The leaders of two of the three left-wing parties that ran together as the Democratic Camp alliance in the previous election inked an agreement on Tuesday to once again join forces for the upcoming March Knesset vote.
Democratic Camp and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz and Democratic Choice chairman Yair Golan agreed to a joint run, in which the former will maintain his position as head of the left-wing alliance while Golan will remain in the third spot.
In the previous election, Golan, a former deputy army chief of staff, ran as a candidate of ex-prime minister Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party.
A spokesman for Golan explained that he had taken over the recently defunct Democratic Choice party in an effort to start his own brand, one separate from Barak who has since returned to the political sidelines.
Meretz, the senior and most seasoned party in the alliance, has already put forward its slate of candidates, but the joint statement released Tuesday said that additional figures on Golan’s slate would be announced in the coming days. Those candidates are expected to be positioned in the bottom half of the Democratic Camp’s first 10 spots.
With the sides branding the move as the “first merger” of parties on the left, Horowitz hailed the agreement as a “very happy and important” development.
But despite the jovial atmosphere, noticeably absent from Tuesday’s signing was Stav Shaffir, whose Green Party made up the third party in the Democratic Camp alliance.
Relations between Shaffir and Horowitz’s Meretz party have soured in recent weeks over the placement of the Green Party leader on the slate. Shaffir had proposed either holding another leadership primary to determine the makeup of the alliance or to have the Democratic Camp replicate its lineup from the September elections, where the Green Party head had been given the second spot on the slate.
When those proposals were rejected by Meretz, which has argued that she should be moved lower down the slate, Shaffir offered on Saturday to be dropped to the third spot and suggested that an Arab Israeli candidate be the party’s deputy in her stead.
No official response has been given by Meretz. Senior members of the party have noted that their decision to join the Democratic Camp only boosted Meretz by one seat in September, while arguing that it had more to do with Barak than Shaffir.
Despite the spat with Shaffir, Horowitz called for additional mergers on the left, and specifically named Amir Peretz, calling the Labor chairman to join the alliance.
But Peretz has expressed hesitation regarding a Labor-Democratic Camp merger, worrying the move would scare away potential right-leaning voters from his socio-economic minded party. Nonetheless, he proposed earlier Tuesday during a Channel 12 interview that a union of all three center-left parties — Blue and White, Labor and Democratic Camp — take place in order to strengthen the bloc and ensure that the latter two parties cross the electoral threshold.
Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah, however, told The Times of Israel last week that his centrist alliance was not interested in any further mergers.