Labor and Meretz agree to unite ahead of third Israeli election in 12 months

Labor and Meretz agree to unite ahead of third Israeli election in 12 months

Two main left-wing parties come together before Israelis return to the polls on 2 March

Amir Peretz (left) and Nitzan Horowitz (right)
Amir Peretz (left) and Nitzan Horowitz (right)

Israel’s two main left-wing parties are to campaign on a single ticket in the country’s upcoming election on 2 March.

Labor and Meretz agreed to unite in a single bloc in order to avoid losing any votes, as Israel’s opposition tries to unseat incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the third election in 11 months.

Once the party of government, centre-left Labor has seen its voter share dwindle in recent years. It averaged 18 seats in the five elections between 2003 and 2015, but averaged only six seats in elections since. There are 120 Knesset seats in total.

Meretz has never won more than six seats in the last two decades, and last year campaigned under the ‘Democratic Union’ banner alongside some high-profile former Labor politicians as well as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Both Labor and Meretz have been polling dangerously close to the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent so have come under pressure to unite into a single bloc in order not to lose valuable votes. If either failed to enter parliament, it would all but guarantee re-election for Netanyahu and his nationalist bloc.

Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz will lead the joint list, followed by Orly Levy-Abekasis and then Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz. Levy-Abekasis, who heads the more centrist Gesher faction, said it was a pragmatic “technical union”.

Any merged group would likely support the government of Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, who are the strongest challengers to Netanyahu’s ten-year reign. Netanyahu faces a corruption trial later this year and is desperate to be re-elected in order to pass legislation granting him immunity.

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