The decision by Amir Peretz’s Labor Party and Orli Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher to run jointly in the upcoming election should be judged only by the results: If this partnership prevents other parties on the left from joining in, or if it turns out that the purpose for running jointly was to enter a Netanyahu government, this will be an unfortunate, destructive decision for the center-left bloc. If, on the other hand, it is a sign that other parties will be joining the bloc, it will be a decision of unparalleled significance.
The one goal that should be paramount for all the forces on the center-left is to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his damaging government so long in power. To build a force that is up to this task, this is not the time to dig through archives to find mistakes or statements that may have stained the potential partners. True, Levi-Abekasis came from Yisrael Beiteinu, and a huge chasm separates that party from a left-wing or liberal worldview. And yet, Levi-Abekasis also has advantages that can contribute to the camp, such as her social action work and her concern for the disadvantaged. In the last election, she received some 74,000 votes (worth two Knesset seats, but below the threshold for entry), which could contribute to the building of powerful front. This should not be discounted.
But make no mistake: There is a real risk that Levi-Abekasis’ partnership with Peretz will stop other parties – Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel – from joining forces. If that happens, then this move will do more harm than good. If the camp does not continue to grow as much as possible, the left could lose thousands of votes and get wiped out because of the failure of certain parties to pass the electoral threshold. This danger should not be enhanced.
What’s worse, the fact that some in the Gesher orbit are saying that membership in a Netanyahu government is not being ruled out should be a warning light. Peretz himself can put out turn this light: He must make unequivocally clear that joining a Netanyahu government is not an option. Levi-Abekasis should do the same. Moreover, Peretz should also state clearly that his joining forces with Gesher does not rule out his joining forces with Meretz and Democratic Israel, and making every effort to bring them together with Tzipi Livni. Even with Gesher, what the three parties have in common is greater than what divides them.
Leaders and activists in all the parties should remain focused on the overarching goal, which is to replace the corrupt and corrupting right-wing government headed by Netanyahu.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.