As Center-left Coalition Talks Stall, Meretz Elects Knesset Slate

Labor chairman Peretz 'hasn’t given green light to start negotiations' despite August 1 deadline, source says ■ Former Meretz leader Zandberg secures second spot on slate

Meretz representatives Esawei Freige, Tamar Zandberg and Mossi Raz pose for a photo after the party's primary election in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

The left-wing Meretz party created its ticket for Israel's September 17 election on Thursday, amid ongoing negotiations on a coalition of center-left parties.

If a joint slate is formed, it may affect Meretz representatives' chances of making it into the next Knesset.

Journalist and former Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz, who was elected chairman last month, is first on the party's ticket, followed by former chairwoman Tamar Zandberg and lawmaker Ilan Gilon. Esawi Freige and Mossi Raz, who had considered a joint Arab-Jewish run for party leadership, were elected to the fourth and fifth spots on the party's slate, followed by Meretz's last sitting lawmaker Michal Rozin in the sixth spot, making her the second woman on the list.

Freige, the only non-Jewish representative in the top five spots, lauded what he said was a victory for his faction of Meretz, which also includes Zandberg and Raz. The faction opposes teaming up with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who announced his Democratic Israel party last month. "A true left was elected," Freige said. "We're not Barak and not [Labor chairman] Amir Peretz. We're left, and I'm convinced we'll make a strong electoral statement."

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Horowitz, who praised the party's "excellent team" after results were announced in Tel Aviv, met also on Thursday with Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and with former Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni, who is said to be considering a political comeback as part of a broad center-left coalition.

Meanwhile, sources in several center-left parties have said that Labor's Peretz, who also met with Livni on Thursday, is blocking moves to form a joint slate. "He's got the key for a union right now," said one source. "So far, he hasn't given a green light to start negotiations."

The parties have yet to come to an agreement on a politician to lead the coalition. Sources in Labor, Meretz and Democratic Israel have all said Peretz was working to attract politicians such as Livni and Orli Levi-Abekasis, whose Gesher party failed to pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold in the April election, in a bid to improve his chances of leading the joint center-left slate.

Some other Labor lawmakers and officials have urged the party's leadership to go into talks as soon as possible, and some, like lawmaker Stav Shaffir, have even done so publicly. With an August 1 deadline to register Knesset slates, sources in all three parties have assessed that a decision will be made within two weeks to allow Labor and Meretz party conventions enough time to approve any agreement that would be reached.