ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Challenging party boss, Labor MK to push for merger with Meretz to shore up left

Referencing ‘mistakes’ that led to Netanyahu win, Gilad Kariv launches bid for unity previously nixed by Labor head Merav Michaeli, with party said looking for a change at the top

Labor leader Merav Michaeli, center, with Labor party MKs Gilad Kariv, second from right, and Naama Lazimi, left, after the results of the Labor party primaries were announced, in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Labor leader Merav Michaeli, center, with Labor party MKs Gilad Kariv, second from right, and Naama Lazimi, left, after the results of the Labor party primaries were announced, in Tel Aviv, August 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Labor party MK Gilad Kariv called for a merger with the Meretz faction Monday, reenergizing a debate around an issue that some blame for the previous government’s defeat at the polls.

Michaeli refused to merge the center-left Labor with the more dovish Meretz ahead of last year’s election, despite intensive efforts to bring the two struggling parties together. Meretz, which ran independently, fell just below the electoral threshold, essentially stripping four Knesset seats from the bloc opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and solidifying the victory for his hard right coalition.

Labor head Merav Michaeli was widely criticized for refusing to open the tent. The party’s three other MKs have decided to take steps against her to push her out of the party, senior Labor officials told The Times of Israel last month.

“Unifying forces on the Zionist left is the task of the day,” Kariv wrote in a Facebook post that pointedly did not name Michaeli.

The party should also look beyond Meretz to “additional forces” in the “Zionist left,” he said. And he advised against waiting until elections are called to start negotiating an ad hoc marriage of convenience based on shifting and unreliable polling data, as is normally done.

“Not a technical merger a moment before elections, or a reaction to polling. A merger of values and essence, on the foundations of the values of Labor, with its political infrastructure as its base. A unification that will bestow new meaning to the role of the Zionist left in Israel’s political system,” Kariv wrote.

Meretz party supporters react as the results of the Israeli elections are announced, in Jerusalem November 1, 2022 (Flash90)

His call was swiftly backed by former Meretz MK Mossi Raz, who tweeted that he backs the formation of a left-wing party that “fights for the end of the occupation, for the integration of the Palestinian Arab minority [in Israel], for a welfare state and to combat climate change.”

Recent opinion polls have showed Labor falling below the electoral threshold if new elections were held, in a stunning fall for the party that led Israel practically unchallenged for the country’s first decades. Those same polls predict the more left-wing Meretz party would cross the electoral threshold and win as many as five seats.

A bus drives through Jerusalem with a large election poster of the Meretz party for the upcoming elections on October 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Kariv said he planned to devote the coming months to campaigning within Labor and beyond for “building a common political home for Labor voters, Meretz voters and many other audiences.

“We all understand that the government of Netanyahu, Levin, Goldknopf, Smotrich and Ben Gvir was established, among other reasons, as a result of mistaken decisions made on the eve of the elections in the change camp,” Kariv said in a swipe at Michaeli.

“Instead of a democratic camp consisting of a center, Zionist left and Arab parties, we presented to voters parties that were competing with each other, and within themselves, instead of with the opposing bloc. That’s how we got the most dangerous government that Israel has known in in its 75 years,” he added.

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