Democratic Union Takes on Labor's Co-leader in 'Worrying' Election Campaign

Sources in Israeli left-wing alliance say campaign intended to attract voters 'even at price of Labor not entering Knesset'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Screenshot from Democratic Union video criticizing Orli Levi-Abekasis.
Screenshot from Democratic Union video criticizing Orli Levi-Abekasis.Credit:
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Democratic Union has launched a campaign targeting Labor-Gesher co-leader Orli Levi-Abekasis, intended to attract voters away from her party – “even at the expense of Labor falling below the threshold” for entering the Knesset, according to sources in the party. (For the latest election polls - click here)

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 39

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The campaign is meant to draw about a Knesset seat and a half worth of voters away from Labor – those Labor voters who have said in internal Democratic Union opinion polls that they are not pleased with the union between Labor chief Amir Peretz and Levi-Abekasis of Gesher, who was formerly a Knesset member for Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu.

Labor has accused the Democratic Union of conducting an "ugly" campaign and said it will not retaliate with its own negative campaign.

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One of the issues at the center of the Democratic Union’s campaign is Levi-Abekasis’ support for a bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into human rights organizations. Levi-Abekasis was one of the sponsors of the bill in 2011, at the height of a sharp right-wing attack against the activities of groups identified with the left.

“Your promoting [of] this bill is direct and indirect support for a horrifying campaign of incitement against human rights organizations whose destructive results can be seen to this day in the inflames discourse on the streets, social media and media,” members of the Democratic Union wrote in a letter sent to Levi-Abekasis on Monday, calling on her to renounce her support for the 2011 bill.

Levi-Abekasis has yet to respond to Haaretz’s regarding the matter.

As part of the new campaign, the Democratic Union has been publishing a video referencing Levi-Abekasis' membership in the Knesset's "Greater Israel" caucus and support for the nation-state law, and claiming that she would give another Netanyahu support for legislation.  (During the vote on the nation-state law, Levi-Abekasis, who was a member of the opposition at the time, did not appear in the Knesset for the vote.)

“Orli Levi is a great person but if you want to vote for the left, vote for us,” the Democratic Union said.

“This is a very worrying campaign,” a source in the Meretz party said. “We will wind up like [Moshe Feiglin’s] Zehut and [Naftali Bennett’s] Hayamin Hehadash in the last election and pull each other down under the electoral threshold.”

Labor-Gesher said in response that Ehud Barak himself was part of Netanyahu’s government coalition that promoted the legislation against left-wing organizations and did not appear for the vote on the 2011 bill. “The ugly campaign that Barak and Meretz are running against Orli Levi-Abekasis is lower than the Dead Sea,” the Labor-Gesher slate said. “Ehud Barak was the most effective collaborator with Bibi Netanyahu when he fled the vote on the parliamentary commission of inquiry. Even though Barak and his party were given freedom to vote as they wished in the cabinet and Knesset, Barak continued to cooperate with Netanyahu and tirelessly dedicated himself to [Netanyahu],” they added.

“Orli Levi was a young MK at the beginning of the road and did not enjoy freedom to vote as was given to Barak, and was obligated to follow party discipline. It is a shame that Meretz abandoned the fight against the right-wing government and is attacking only Orli Levi-Abekasis, who bravely chose to run a campaign about people before anything else. Barak and Meretz will continue in their ugly and low campaign against Orli Levi-Abekasis, while Labor-Gesher will act responsibly and will not be dragged into a negative campaign that could well erase Meretz – under the electoral threshold. The mission of the election is to replace the right headed by Netanyahu. It is a shame that Barak and Meretz have forgotten that,” Labor said in response.