The main objective of the center and left camps in the coming election is to topple the Likud government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, a man accused of bribery, and to replace him with Benny Gantz. Attaining this goal requires a heavy turnout of voters belonging to these camps on Election Day and making the utmost effort to avoid wasting votes on parties that don’t pass the electoral threshold.
The danger is clear and present. If either Labor or Meretz (in its present wrapping as the Democratic Union) do not make it into the next Knesset, the right will enjoy a crushing victory, with Netanyahu forming a coalition that will grant him immunity from facing trial while destroying the judicial system and annexing the West Bank.
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The results of the last two elections, as well as recent opinion polls, show that these two parties, especially Meretz, face the risk of collapsing. The alarmist “Gevalt!” campaign they waged in April and September did save these parties from annihilation. But there is no guarantee this will work again. In fact, with Gantz now perceived as a worthy candidate for forming a government after consolidating his status as leader of Kahol Lavan, he will attract voters from the left, thereby weakening Labor and the Democratic Union.
The leaders of the Democratic Union, sensing this danger, have proposed to Labor that the parties join ranks and run together on March 2, but have encountered stiff opposition on the part of Labor-Gesher leader, Amir Peretz. Peretz is not explaining his motives, beyond stating that “there is still time.” Does he wish to obliterate Meretz? Does he believe the myth that he can attract Likud voters to the left? The answer is unclear. What’s clear is that Peretz is risking shattering the camp that opposes Netanyahu, possibly paving the path for the right wing to deal a knockout blow.
The ideological differences and personal rivalries between Labor and the Democratic Union are no larger than those in other parties that have run together and chalked up electoral gains, including Kahol Lavan, the Joint List and even United Torah Judaism. There is no real reason why the left cannot unite as well. Only a veto by Peretz is preventing such cooperation. This camp and its supporters must mobilize in order to persuade him to change his mind. They must not allow him to turn Labor and Democratic Union voters into those who pave the way for Netanyahu to obtain immunity, and become responsible for the devastation of the justice system and the annexation of the occupied territories.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.