Israel's Labor Source Says It Won’t Merge With Barak’s Party

'It’s clear that if there’s some kind of union, it will only be with [Labor leader] Amir Peretz leading it. There’s no question about it, we are unanimous. Barak’s leadership isn’t on the agenda,' the source said

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak gestures after delivering a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel June 26, 2019.
\ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

The Labor Party will not join a union of left-wing parties if it is headed by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a source involved in the party’s discussions with Meretz and Barak’s Democratic Israel said on Monday.

“We are absolutely not taking about a union headed by Barak,” the source said. “It’s clear that if there’s some kind of union, it will only be with [Labor leader] Amir Peretz leading it. There’s no question about it, we are unanimous. Barak’s leadership isn’t on the agenda.”

According to the source, “The only question being examined right now is if Labor even has to run with other parties and if so, which ones.”

Peretz himself has publicly stated that he is not ruling out a scenario in which he would be Barak’s No. 2. “Personal matters will not be a barrier, period,” he said on Channel 12’s “Meet the Press” program on Saturday.

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“There’s only one point to be examined, and that’s how to find the broadest possible framework for creating an electoral and ideological alternative to [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Labor members stressed on Monday that the party might still add other candidates to its slate, among them Orly Levi-Abekasis and Tzipi Livni, though talks with the two haven’t made any headway.

Peretz would prefer to take on Levi-Abekassis, whether or not there is a union with Meretz or Barak. “There is total agreement on social issues between Levi-Abekassis and the banners raised by the Labor Party.

However, the doubts about teaming up with Meretz or Democratic Israel are serious since the gaps are greater between them and Labor,” the source said.

Since Levi-Abekassis left Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu in 2016, she has carefully avoided expressing political opinions that could constitute as red flags for the left. But political sources say she isn’t in a hurry return to the political arena after her failure to make it into the Knesset in the last election. Nor has Livni decided whether she wants to run. “We can’t wait until the last minute to make decisions,” the Labor source added.

Peretz, Barak and Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz are scheduled to meet separately with one another on Tuesday to try to advance a union, but they won’t holding a joint meeting. On Monday Peretz met with a group of former Labor lawmakers to discuss a possible merger.

In the coming days Peretz will examine recently conducted opinion surveys regarding a possible merger between Labor and other left-wing parties in order to determine his next steps.