Israel’s democratic camp has received a second chance to win an election and even replace Benjamin Netanyahu. Its chances on September 17 appear greater than they were in April.
First, the prime minister is heading into the vote after he failed to form a governing coalition and dragged the country into a second election, and at a time when Israel’s budget deficit has grown because of Netanyahu and his irresponsible government.
Second, Israelis were given proof that Netanyahu lied when he said before the election that he wouldn’t advance legislation to prevent his prosecution in the corruption cases against him. The public knows that Netanyahu’s immunity was a core issue in the coalition talks. In the September poll, which will be held two weeks before Netanyahu’s scheduled pre-indictment hearings, voters will go to the ballot box in the knowledge, rather than just the assumption, that Netanyahu plans to distort the law in order to skirt it.
Third, Avigdor Lieberman isn’t in Netanyahu’s pocket with the rest of the prime minister’s natural partners.
But when you look at the democratic camp, the hope turns to apprehension. According to some polls, at least one of the three Zionist left-wing parties might not reach the 3.25 percent electoral threshold. The only cure for that ill is an alliance among Meretz, which barely made it into the Knesset last time; the Labor Party, which withered to just six lawmakers; and Democratic Israel, the new party of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The three parties have more in common ideologically than not, and in any event the differences are negligible in comparison to the greater goal of ending Netanyahu’s reign. There’s no need for a full unification of the parties and their institutions. It’s enough for them to run as a joint slate, to which Tzipi Livni and Orli Levi-Abekasis should be added.
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Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan will then represent the center, and the union of left-wing parties will represent voters who support a two-state solution, oppose the nation-state law and seek to guarantee the independence of the High Court of Justice and freedom of expression for civil-society organizations, artists and cultural institutions, while halting the growth of religious coercion.
Many people in Meretz and Labor are suspicious of Barak and his motives because he served as defense minister under Netanyahu and even divided the Labor Party in order to remain in that government. The fear is that Barak will join Netanyahu again after the election. But Barak will find it hard to defect to Netanyahu’s side for the position of defense minister representing the unified party.
The deadline for forming a unified left-wing bloc is August 1, the last day for submitting candidate lists to the Central Elections Committee. The alliance should be finalized a few days before so that it can be approved by the institutions of Meretz and Labor. The parties must not dawdle: The day is short and the political work is long.