Labor Shuns Center-left Ticket With Yesh Atid

Some Labor members argue that the center-left parties would win more seats in the Knesset running separately.

Olivier Fitoussi

The idea of running a united center-left slate in the next election looked more like a dream Tuesday as Labor Party members claimed that a joint list with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would weaken the left, not strengthen it.

With elections expected in about three months, the four parties that could theoretically join such a bloc – Labor, Meretz, Hatnuah and Yesh Atid – have yet to even agree on whom they would support as their candidate for prime minister.

Surveys show Labor chief Isaac Herzog with far more support than the other three party leaders, making him the apparent natural candidate. But he still polls well below Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

MK Amir Peretz (Hatnuah), who favors a joint ticket, sounded optimistic. “Elections haven’t yet been called, so nobody should be surprised that there’s no draft plan or meetings on the matter,” he said. “Four months is plenty of time to complete this task.”

Peretz claimed that at least three of the four parties – Labor, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah – supported a joint ticket. But some Labor members argued that the center-left parties would win more seats running separately.

Ofer Vaknin

“Yesh Atid is a weak brand today,” one said. “Lapid is no longer seen as a great hope; he’s a burden, not an asset. They may be building on nine to 12 seats, but our assessment is that he’ll get less.”

Peretz countered that a united list would bolster the center-left by injecting much-needed spirit.

“One of the center’s problems is that it isn’t creating enough energy to rouse its voters to support it,” he said. “If the campaign reaches a point where centrist voters feel there’s no chance of replacing Netanyahu, they won’t turn out to vote.”

But Meretz sounded equally unenthusiastic about a joint ticket. “Meretz should run alone but announce, like all the centrist and leftist parties, that it will work to prevent Netanyahu from forming the next government,” a Meretz member said.

Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni could very well hold the key. Associates have said she prefers to run with Lapid because she's more comfortable with his views. But Labor sources argue that she should join them.

“Not one Labor voter would switch to supporting a Lapid-Livni party. Lapid is collapsing in the polls. But if Livni moved to Labor, this union could steal many disappointed Yesh Atid voters, vie for Kahlon’s supporters and even steal votes from Meretz,” a Labor member said, referring to a possible new party headed by Moshe Kahlon, a former communications minister.

Labor’s floor chief in the Knesset, Eitan Cabel, said he’s still debating. “I’ll recommend supporting any combination that proves bigger than the sum of its parts,” he said. “But I can’t tell you exactly what that's going to be.”