Barak says considering joining with Labor, Meretz, Livni; not set on being no.1

Former PM says he’s looking to create electoral bloc that ‘will start more to the left’ than the centrist Blue and White party

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, pictured in 2009 (Photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)
Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, pictured in 2009 (Photo credit: Gil Yohanan/Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that his newly formed Israel Democratic Party is looking at the possibility of forming a center-left electoral bloc with Labor, Meretz and former Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni, and that he himself would be willing to give up the number one spot if it would help to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office.

“We are examining the possibilities — what’s happening with Tzipi Livni, what’s happening with Meretz, Labor and others,” Barak told Kan public radio when asked if he plans to team up with other political parties before the September 17 election.

“What was missing last time was a large bloc that will start more to the left and encompass as many [people] as possible,” he said of the April election. It was a tacit criticism of the Blue and White party, which positioned itself as a centrist union but pushed back against the left-wing designation.

Declaring his chief goal the dethroning of the long-serving Netanyahu, Barak said that he did not necessarily have to lead the bloc himself.

“I made it clear that we will not sit with Netanyahu in any situation or in any way, and we do not care who will be the number one, two, or three [on the electoral slate]. Our goal is to replace Netanyahu,” he insisted.

Barak announced the establishment of his new party last week, vowing to defeat Netanyahu in September. Revealing the party’s name on Saturday night, Barak tweeted, “The State of Israel is at a moment away from the total dissolution of Israeli democracy. Now is the time to return hope and courage to Israel, to unite and return Israel to the right track. We are a Democratic Israel.”

In a live Facebook video broadcast from a Jerusalem coffee shop near the Prime Minister’s Residence, Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed claims that his policies were endangering Israeli democracy as “bluffs” and said Barak was a “little tyrant” who wants full control over his new party.

“He isn’t offering any democracy,” Netanyahu said, alluding to the fact that other parties, including Likud, held primaries to build their campaign slates.

Despite shaking up the dreary election campaign and sending shock waves through several centrist and left-wing parties that are likely to lose voters to Barak’s new party, a poll published Friday gave it just four Knesset seats out of 120. Other polls have given Barak between four and eight seats.

Newly elected Labor Party leader Amir Peretz signaled Thursday that he is willing to do whatever it takes to create a large leftist bloc ahead of the elections, including stepping aside to let Barak lead a joint slate of their two parties.

Both Peretz and Barak have previously led Labor, and Barak wrested control of the party from Peretz in 2007.

After Peretz won the Labor election last week, Nitzan Horowitz, who won the leadership primary in the left-wing Meretz party last month, said in a statement: “We at Meretz are prepared to discuss possible cooperation for the success of the Israeli left. I expect to speak to Amir in the next few days.”

Reactions among the Blue and White leadership to the prospect of teaming up with Barak have been mixed. While former army chief Gabi Ashkenazi said he was open to the notion, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon have rejected it.

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