Labor, Meretz heads hail their union as chance to send Netanyahu packing
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Labor, Meretz heads hail their union as chance to send Netanyahu packing

Bristling with excitement over merger despite earlier misgivings over alliance with leftist faction, Amir Peretz says parties have more in common than not

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz, left, and Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz shake hands during a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 13, 2020. (Flash90)
Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz, left, and Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz shake hands during a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 13, 2020. (Flash90)

The chairmen of the center-left Labor-Gesher and left-wing Meretz parties gushed over their decision to run on a united slate in the upcoming March election, saying during a Monday press conference that their shared desire to dethrone Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed them to put aside their political differences.

“We don’t agree about everything, but the common denominator between us is greater than that which separates us. This merger gives a chance of overturning Netanyahu’s policies,” Labor-Gesher chairman Amir Peretz said at the opening of the press conference.

He called the alliance “the difference-maker in the 2020 vote.”

Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz similarly hailed the merger as a “historic step.”

“As with any merger, all parties are required to pay a price, myself included. However, I have chosen the interests of the state, the [center-left] bloc and the Meretz party over my personal position on the list,” he added, referring to his willingness to drop to third on the list in order to allow for the merger to take place.

Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz, left, and Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz during a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 13, 2020. (Flash90)

Peretz and his centrist partner Orly Levy-Abekasis of Gesher had initially expressed misgivings about joining up with Meretz, which is further to the left on the political spectrum, but had faced pressure to unify out of fears that one of the parties could slip below the electoral threshold and be kept out of the Knesset.

Levy-Abekasis, who still maintained the No. 2 spot on the united list, was notably absent at Monday’s press conference.

Labor-Gesher will have six of the first 11 spots in the new unified slate while Meretz will have five. Peretz will lead the list, with Levy-Abekasis at No. 2 and Horowitz at No. 3. They will be followed by Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg, and Labor’s Itzik Shmuli and Merav Michaeli rounding out the top six. Former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan, who merged with Meretz in the last election, will be placed seventh on the list.

Labor MKs Omer Barlev and Revital Swid will take the next two spots, followed by Meretz’s Issawi Frej.

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis at a Knesset House Committee meeting, March 15, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The joint slate will run under Labor’s traditional ballot slip at the polls with the letters Alef, Mem, Tav (or “Emet”).

Green Party leader Stav Shaffir, a former Labor stalwart, who, in September’s elections, was placed second on the list of the Democratic Camp (an alliance between Meretz, the Green Party and Golan’s Israel Democratic Party), was not included in the new union. Though officials in both parties did not rule out her joining later, the odds appeared low.

Polls have shown both Labor-Gesher and Meretz hovering at between four and six Knesset seats each, in danger of falling below the 3.25% threshold of total votes (representing four seats) required to enter the Knesset, in the upcoming March 2 vote.

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