Meretz Knesset member Esawi Freige has rejected the possibility of his party joining forces with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's new party, Israel Democratic Party (Yisrael Demokratit), ahead of September's elections.
According to Haaretz, Freige called on Barak to pull out of the race in light of the killings of Palestinian citizens of Israel by police in October 2000; 13 lost their lives, with hundreds wounded. Barak was prime minister at the time.
"Do us a favour. Save your apology. Return to your luxury towers and let us do the work, don't get in our way," said Freige. "The Arabs don't want to be a fig leaf and a lifesaver. We want to be partners."
The Meretz lawmaker told Haaretz that he does not believe Barak has good intentions. "He served in [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu's government as defence minister. If we team up with him, I would have to protect myself from being spat on in Arab streets."
After Freige's comments, Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said he does not rule out a merger with Barak, though acknowledged that Freige "said what he feels, and many agree with him".
"We are conducting talks with everyone, including Barak. We are doing so while placing the focus on [Meretz's] principles and values. We are not anyone ruling out. It's good these things were said, [since] they express the feelings of a wide group," Horowitz said.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin, meanwhile, claimed that "Barak's entry into the political arena is motivating voters. While stances are abandoned and a greater vision is forgotten, Meretz will remain with its values and principles".
Meretz's election campaign slogan is "This time, Meretz", reportedly "aimed at bringing back those who voted for Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party in the April election".