Former Knesset member Orli Levi-Abekasis announced Thursday that she is merging with the Labor Party, a move that puts in question a wider left-wing union involving Labor, Meretz and Ehud Barak's Democratic Israel.
"We intend to change the reality in which children are disadvantaged because they were born in the wrong place or to the wrong family," Levi-Abekasis said in a joint press conference with Labor Chairman Amir Peretz. The merge will guarantee her party three spots out of the first 10 spots on Labor's election slate.
The addition of Levi-Abekasis to Labor highlights its social welfare agenda. As a parliamentarian with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu between 2009 and 2013, Levi-Abekasis focused on public housing, rent control, healthcare, youth at risk and sexual assault. In April, Levi-Abekasis ran independently but her Gesher party did not pass the electoral threshold, receiving 74,000 votes, or 1.73 percent of the total.
Meretz was displeased with the news and lamented that Peretz has repeated the mistake of his predecessor Avi Gabbay by refusing to merge with it and is "crushing any possibility of a left-wing union."
Upon being elected chairman of Labor two weeks ago, Peretz said that under his leadership, the party “would seek mergers so we can lead a large social, ideological and democratic force against the right led by Netanyahu.”
Two days ago, a source involved in negotiations between Barak and Labor said that Labor would not join the merger of left-wing parties if Barak were to head it. “Absolutely not. We are not talking about a merger headed by Barak,” the source said. He also said, “It is clear that if there is a merger, it will only be headed by Amir Peretz. There is no question about that at all. There is a consensus on this. Barak leading is not even an option.” The source added that “the only question under consideration right now is whether Labor really needs to join with other parties, and if so then which parties.”
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“The only question is how to find the broadest framework that creates an electoral and ideological alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Peretz in a television interview last Saturday. “My job is to change the reality. I don’t concern myself with feelings or resentments.”