Meretz renews call for merger with Labor as new elections called

‘The present need is a large and significant left-wing bloc,’ leader Zandberg says, as politicians begin preparing for September 17 vote

Then-Meretz party leader MK Tamar Zandberg at a Knesset faction meeting on May 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-Meretz party leader MK Tamar Zandberg at a Knesset faction meeting on May 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg on Wednesday night called for the formation of a joint slate with the Labor party, after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and set new elections for September 17.

“In the morning I will appeal to the Labor party to enter talks for running together in the elections,” she said. “The present need is a large and significant left-wing bloc along with the center.”

Meretz MK Michal Rozin on Thursday morning echoed the call. “It is right for us to present the public with a single list,” she told Army Radio.

And Labor MK Stav Shaffir said it was time to “examine additional alliances” ahead of the national vote.

Such a merger had been discussed prior to the previous elections on April 9, as well as afterward.

Zandberg urged a joint run before the vote but was rebuffed by Labor, which feared its hawkish flank would defect to the centrist Blue and White party, whose attraction for center-left voters was seen as a major threat.

But after Labor had the worst showing in its history, winning only six seats in the 120-seat legislature (Meretz has five), the possibility of a merger was once again raised.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2019. (Flash90)

Influential MK and former party chief Shelly Yachimovich has expressed openness to such a possibility, writing on Facebook after the election that her party must “abandon for now the unrealistic dreams of returning to power, and build a party that is a clear, sharp option that has nothing in common with the extreme right, but also not with the extreme center.

“That option demands that we courageously and despite the difficulty consider a merger with Meretz. No one knows better than I how many nuanced differences separate us… But let’s also admit that the similarities are many. We’re [both] the Zionist left, patriotic, social democratic, liberal, free.”

The two parties’ fate is widely seen as a sign of voters’ deepening disaffection over the moribund peace process with the Palestinians, with which the two parties are most closely identified. In 1992, the year of Meretz’s founding, Labor won 44 seats and Meretz 12, forming the foundation of Israel’s 25th government under Yitzhak Rabin, which would launch the Oslo peace process.

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