Israel’s Left Badly Needs a Joint Ticket for the Next Election

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Haaretz Cartoon, July 26, 2019.

Two months before the election, the two parties of the Zionist left seem to be busy splintering rather than joining forces. While Meretz is trying to push Stav Shaffir to the bottom of the slate and break up the Democratic Union joint ticket, Labor Party chief Amir Peretz continues to insist on running again on the Labor-Gesher joint ticket with Orli Levi-Abekasis.

Even though Peretz says the option of uniting with Meretz is still on the table, postponing the decision until “the right moment” sends the message that he isn’t serious. At a time when both parties are being torn apart by infighting and are having trouble even preserving what they ran on in the last election, forming a joint ticket will probably take much longer than mid-next week when the final slates must be submitted.

To engineer a hookup between the two parties, both must thaw the egos of the people involved and find a compromise that will prevent a reckless waste of left-wing votes.

Given this reality, it’s worrying that Peretz may actually be determined to run alone. This is because he thinks his party has a better chance of making it into the Knesset than Meretz, which currently looks more vulnerable. But there’s no guarantee that Peretz is right in this assessment. And at this point, with polls predicting five seats for his party while Meretz is hovering around the electoral threshold, Peretz’s gamble seems too big and too risky – not just for his party, but for the entire bloc.

The story of the death throes of the left-wing Zionist parties may yet provide a living for biographers and political pundits. To anyone observing the goings-on in these parties from the outside, it often seems as if Labor and Meretz are terminally ill, consumed by the acid of political wheeling and dealing by their most recent representatives.

Meanwhile, Israel remains in an unprecedented civic and political crisis. The mission of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and preventing a government of corruption, criminality and immunity is the most urgent task for anyone concerned about Israeli democracy.

The battles within the parties and the nuances that distinguish the parties from each other are trivial compared to the potential disaster waiting in the wings – a Netanyahu-led government that will grant him immunity from prosecution, that will have far-rightists Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir as senior ministers, and that will destroy the legal system and undermine the rule of law.

The leaders of Meretz and Labor must recognize the danger hovering over them. Both parties must form a “technical bloc” that lets them function independently after the election and run on a joint ticket in the upcoming election. If they run separately and one of them fails to make it into the Knesset, their leaders will bear the responsibility.

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