Democratic Union Leaders Launch Campaign: Left Has Never Been Stronger; Netanyahu – Your Time Is Up

Horowitz says alliance is 'setting out on a path that will lead to regime change in Israel'; Barak, placed 10th on slate, vows to 'give Netanyahu a fight,' while Shaffir calls for Israeli Arabs to see union as their allies

Nitzan Horowitz (right), Stav Shaffir (center) and Ehud Barak at a joint press conference in Tel Aviv, July 25, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Meretz and Ehud Barak's newly established party announced Thursday a joint run in the September election, along with Labor lawmaker Stav Shaffir, who was given the second spot on the ticket.

Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz will lead the joint ticket, while Ehud Barak will take the tenth spot. The slate will run under the name Democratic Union.

In a joint statement, it was said Shaffir was the "unifying factor" leading to the merger. "The initiators of the this union believe that establishing Democratic Union is an initial and crucial step to bring the State of Israel back on track," the statement read.

>> Read more: Israeli leftists can thank Jeffrey Epstein for Barak-Shaffir-Meretz alliance | Analysis ■ Center-left merger leaves Barak, Shaffir and Meretz smiling on the life raft | Analysis

Speaking at a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon, the three launched their election campaign.

Horowitz addressed the public first, saying: "We are setting out on a new path that will lead in a month and a half to regime change in Israel and social change. The public is yearning for our values: Values of equality and freedom."

"I am happy we managed to merge forces and create a significant political merger which the left-wing in Israel has not seen in many years," he added. "This is what the public wants –  a union, a merger. The Israeli left is back to being a strong, attractive and influential force."

According to Horowitz, "the public sees the State of Israel is under attack." He promised to revoke the nation-state law and "enhance equality, protect democracy, maintain free press, support human rights organizations and strive for peace, for a poltical solution."

Horowitz also vowed not to serve in a government led by Netanyahu. "Netanyahu and your partners, your time is up. On September 17, you’ll be going home," he said.

Taking the podium, Shaffir shared that she "dreamed of this moment for many years. The right was getting stronger, but our bloc hasn’t reacted effectively. This ends today.” She added that the Democratic Union is “a force unafraid to fight for Israel. We know we have to win this battle.”

She also called on Israeli Arabs “to see us as your allies.”

Speaking last was Barak, who defeated Netanyahu in the 1999 election: "We’ll give him a fight like he’s never had in 20 years," he said. Barak also urged "additional unions," hinting at ongoing talks with other left-wing politicians.

The Labor Party released a statement saying, "We welcome Ehud Barak's union with Meretz, this move will prevent votes from going to a party that wouldn't have passed the electoral threshold, and that would have squandered center-left votes.

"Now it's clear. The Labor Party offers a social-ideological alternative to the right-wing bloc, which will allow us to bring new voters and replace the Netanyahu regime," the statement read.

With just a week left to present the final lists for the September 17 elections, all sides were concerned they might not get enough votes by themselves to cross the electoral threshold.

Members of Barak's party, Democratic Israel, will be placed in the third, seventh, ninth, 14th and 15th spots, with Yair Golan, a former deputy army chief, and Yifat Bitton, taking the third and seventh slots, respectively. Noa Rothman, granddaughter of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, is expected to be placed ninth.

Shaffir also secured the eighth and 11th slots for Labor members she is trying to bring to Democratic Union. Should Shaffir fail, former Labor lawmaker Yael Cohen Paran will hold the eighth slot.

As for Meretz members, Tamar Zandberg, who will take the fourth slot on the joint ticket, described the move as "a dramatic move to strengthen the left wing, Ilan Gilon will hold the fifth spot, Esawi Freige will be placed sixth, and Mossi Raz will hold the 12th spot.  

Freige said his party joined forces with Democratic Israel for the lack of any other option. "I wished to preserve my home and identity, and sticking to the values I was brought up on," Freige said in an interview to Army Radio.

"The election pushed us to other places, I really hope we took the right decision. [But] I personally think Meretz would have passed the electoral threshold [even if it would run alone]," he said.

Labor member Merav Michaeli told Israel Radio that her "party welcomes the union," but noted that Labor is a deep-rooted party with a clear ideology. She never stopped being such, Michaeli said, "but only grew stronger. I also was offered the opportunity to join many parties, but I'll never do that."

Criticizing Barak, Michaeli said that he "sat four years in Netanyahu's government and even dissolved Labor to do so, as he tried to do no and failed. Labor is an important ideological home, this is the time to strengthen it."

Touching on Labor's merger with Gesher's Orli Levi-Abekasis, Michaeli said "it’s so common to say Labor must join forces with the periphery, and here we have someone that has done it in the past and united with someone who is capable to do more in that aspects, and suddenly it’s not legitimate enough," she said in reference to Levi-Abekasis, who is considered a social flag-bearer.

Labor lawmaker Itzik Shmuli told news website Ynet that "Something big is happening in the center-left bloc, and I prefer to be a part of it."

Shmuli added that Labor leader Amir Peretz "can recalculate his course of action. At the moment I'm focused on Labor and seek to take it to the right place. The decision is Peretz's and I intend to do what is right to make him understand this is the right thing to do."

Democratic Union – the expected list:

1. Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz)
2. Stav Shaffir (Labor)
3. Yair Golan (Democratic Israel)
4. Tamar Zandberg (Meretz)
5. Ilan Gilon (Meretz)
6. Esawi Freige (Meretz)
7. Yifat Bitton (Democratic Israel)
8. Reserved for Stav Shafir
9. Noa Rothman (Democratic Israel)
10. Ehud Barak (Democratic Israel)
11. Reserved for Stav Shaffir
12. Mossi Raz (Meretz)
13. Michal Rozin (Meretz)
14. Reserved for Democratic Israel
15. Reserved for Democratic Israel