Prime Minister Yair Lapid offered Labor leader Merav Michaeli incentives to join her party with the Meretz faction ahead of the upcoming election, but she rejected the offer, Sunday reports said.
Lapid offered Labor and Meretz a reserved spot each on his Yesh Atid party’s electoral slate, and ministerial positions for Labor if he forms a government, Channel 13 reported. A spokesperson for Lapid later confirmed the report.
Lapid wants the center-left Labor and the dovish Meretz to join forces since both parties are near the electoral threshold, at risk of not getting enough votes to win representation in the Knesset. If one or both of the parties fall below the threshold of 3.25%, the votes for the parties will go to waste, instead of likely going to a potential Lapid coalition.
Lapid has said that it’s “incredibly important” for the Labor and Meretz parties to unite their slates, but Labor has been reluctant to agree to an alliance.
Michaeli turned down Lapid’s offer, citing past unions between the parties. She believes an alliance between the two factions will result in fewer seats than if they run separately, which happened the last time the parties joined.
“A union between the parties was tried in the past and was a total failure,” Labor said in a statement. “Until now we haven’t seen any polls that show that a union will strengthen the [center-left] camp.”
Michaeli and Meretz leader Zehava Galon met with Lapid on Saturday. The meeting lasted less than an hour and did not result in any breakthroughs.
Lapid and Michaeli spoke again on Sunday, and Michaeli declined an offer to send a representative to further negotiations for a merger with Meretz, Channel 13 reported.
Parties need to submit their final electoral slates later this week.
November’s race is expected to be tight, and votes wasted on a left-wing party that doesn’t cross the threshold could cost Lapid’s bloc a shot at maintaining power and preventing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious bloc from returning to government.
“My position on a merger is known,” Michaeli said at the start of the meeting on Saturday. “I came because I was invited, and I am happy to hear the prime minister’s position from him for the first time, not through the media.”
“We may have different views on how to get there, but the goal is clear and we are partners in it: to prevent the return of Netanyahu and the right to power,” she said.
Labor has dropped from six to five seats in recent polls, skirting just above the four-seat minimum to enter Knesset.
Galon, who recently retook Meretz’s reins after a break from politics, is polling at between four and five seats and has been open to unification discussions since she was voted in as party leader last month.
A Channel 12 news poll published Friday showed that among centrist and left-wing voters, 45 percent were in favor of a merger between Labor and Meretz. Thirty-five percent were against and the remaining 20% were undecided.
Lapid has said that current polls find that a merger between the two left-wing parties does not harm the number of seats they would potentially gain, while Michaeli has argued that polls do indicate that a union would reduce the number of potential seats.
Israeli TV polls are often too small to accurately predict election results, with margins of error large enough to sway as many as five seats, but they can offer a general overview of public opinion and often influence jockeying between politicians.
Israel’s national election will be held on November 1.