Labor's Joint Run With Social Flag-bearer Might 'Spell Party's End,' Barak Says

Meretz chairman also slams union with Orli Levi-Abekasis, saying Amir Peretz is setting the ground for joining a Netanyahu-led government

Ehud Barak at a campaign event in Tel Aviv, July 17, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak slammed on Friday the joint run announced by Israel's Labor Party and former Knesset member Orli Levi-Abekasis, saying such a team-up might be the end of the party he once led.

The addition of Levi-Abekasis to Labor, announced Thursday in a Tel Aviv press conference, highlights the party's social welfare agenda ahead of the September 17 election, but blocks a wider left-wing union involving Meretz and Ehud Barak's Democratic Israel.

"This move might spell the end for the Labor Party that founded the State of Israel just to be replaced by a niche party," Barak said, speaking to members of Kibbutz Ein Shemer.

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He stressed that a wide left-wing union should be created with Levi-Abekasis a part of it, but added that renouncing other issues in favor of an agenda based solely of social justice issues would lead a center-left bloc to lose its direction. 

Orli Levi-Abekasis and Amir Peretz, July 18, 2019.
Nir Keidar

"The bloc's best interest was and always will be a wide union of its parties," Barak said. He went on to quote Levi-Abekasis saying she was "neither right nor left," adding "she is renouncing the possibility of replacing the current regime, and is opening the door for joining [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's [government]."

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 3.25-percent electoral threshold, receiving 74,000 votes, or 1.73 percent of the total.

"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. 

Echoing Barak's sentiments, Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz also blasted Thursday's announcement, accusing Peretz of choosing to secure a spot for Levi-Abekasis on Labor's slate only in order to join Netanyahu's government instead of uniting with left-wing parties.

Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz launching Meretz's election campaign, July 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

"The masks are off. Each and every of Peretz's moves is meant to prepare the ground for teaming up with right," Horowitz told Israel Radio.

"Instead a wide left-wing union, Peretz chose a minor team-up that will allow him to join Netanyahu and his natural partners, which is very unfortunate," Meretz leader said.  

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.”