Yes to a Unification of the Israeli Left

Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz meets Labor top official Itzik Shmuli during merger negotiations between the two parties, Tel Aviv, January 6, 2020
Tomer Appelbaum

On Sunday, two days before the deadline for submitting party slates to the Central Elections Committee, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz proposed negotiations on a joint ticket with Meretz in the March 2 election. “We need to go for unification with Meretz,” he said at a meeting of his party’s executive. Over the next day, the two parties will have to agree on the ticket so they can bring their decision to both parties’ conventions for approval Tuesday.

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At the meeting, Peretz admitted that “there’s no choice, even if we’re doing this against our will” – said the man who for months has led opposition to a joint ticket. He changed his mind because he was under heavy pressure to agree to unity amid fears that one of the two parties would fail to make it into the Knesset.

Peretz was wise to come to his senses at the last minute. The decision to run together is a calculated, cautious move aimed at furthering the center-left bloc’s main goal – replacing the Likud-led government headed by bribery suspect Benjamin Netanyahu and preventing the formation of a nationalist government that would grant him immunity from prosecution.

This hookup between the two parties of the Zionist left is dictated by reality, because in a situation where the two political blocs are essentially tied, we can’t risk that one of the left-wing parties – or worse, both – fails to reach the Knesset, thus throwing precious votes in the trash. When compared to the right-wing alternative, the ideological differences between the Labor-Gesher joint ticket and Meretz are negligible. In any case, it mustn’t be forgotten that this is merely a “technical” union that lets the parties split immediately after the election.

Therefore, disputes over who should be placed where on the ticket and other honors must not be allowed to torpedo the negotiations. Both sides must remember that a much more important goal stands above the ego battles – ending Netanyahu’s tenure given the three corruption indictments hovering over him, and ending a government bent on undermining the legal system and annexing the occupied territories.

Increasing the size of the center-left bloc is a necessary condition for creating any real possibility of change. Both parties’ institutions must approve the joint ticket Tuesday so that in the election in two months, center-left voters can for the first time in a long time forget about strategic voting and simply vote according to their positions, with full confidence that no vote will be tossed in the garbage. Centrist voters can vote for Kahol Lavan, while leftist voters can choose either the left-wing joint ticket or the Arab parties’ Join List, with no compromises.