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Over the weekend, Haaretz's Yossi Verter reported the Labor Party chair's intention to join forces: the party would glom onto Meretz or vice versa - and they would be a single party. Good morning, Amir Peretz; and although it is morning, it is rather late indeed.

Just one day after Peretz was elected to lead his party, I suggested here uniting the two parties, and finally creating a single, large left-wing bloc. Never - so I wrote and explained - had a Labor chair been elected who was so close to Meretz from both a political and social standpoint. Therefore, there was no more reason for their separate existences, which would from that point forth be unnatural and arbitrary.

At the time, Peretz brushed the suggestion aside as if it were nonsense. Just a year ago, in November of last year, he was absolutely sure that the premiership awaited him on a national platter. He read a dozen complimentary editorials in the newspapers giving him credit, he heard applause and cheers in various places, and he had no doubt the esteemed position was placed at his feet like a severed head at the feet of the victor; he was haughty and arrogant.

Too bad. There is no guarantee that a Labor-Meretz merger would have garnered the pair the lead in the elections, but it would certainly have closed the gap with Kadima, and allowed Peretz-Meretz to implement more of its political agenda.

A year has passed, and many thing have happened in Israel: things that distanced those once close: Peretz and his party breached the social promises they made to the voter, participated in conducting an unsuccessful war that didn't ever have to break out in the first place. They are also abetting the policy of refusal toward the Arab world, and oppressing the Palestinian population like it hasn't been oppressed in 40 years. Now it takes an electronic microscope to discern the differences between Labor and Kadima, marching in the same formation, performing a right face .

Peretz already understands that he cannot avoid disaster both as defense minister and as party chair. He's desperately seeking buoys that will save him. He's flailing his arms right and left to keep from drowning, and if he can't swim in the filthy waters, then at least float.

Meretz for its part would be nuts to serve as the life jacket. The truth is, Meretz has been pushed to the edge of even f the margins, its unique voice unheard, and its stamp unrecognized, but it is not obligated to commit suicide and be buried in a joint funeral with its sister party. Labor in its current condition will only drag Meretz into its own internal whirlpool, to sink like a stone with it.

It may well be that Unification Day may yet arrive, and it will come when Labor replaces its policies and its leaders, and when Meretz changes force. More than ever, Israel needs a worthy left-wing party, and Israel awaits its return.

There are those who are sorry like I am, and there is no one sorrier than I about Peretz's late wake-up, after his own lights have already gone out.