The Labor-Gesher and Meretz parties announced today that they will merge and run on a joint slate in the Israeli elections scheduled for 2 March, reported the Times of Israel.
In a statement confirming the "significant" move, Labor leader Amir Peretz and Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz said the merger "will ensure the ability to form a government of change and hope".
The pair claimed that the alliance would serve as "the social heart and diplomatic compass for the next government after the end of the Netanyahu era".
This Wednesday is the deadline for parties to finalise their lists of candidates or any mergers, ahead of the third election in a year. Both Labor-Gesher and Meretz feared failing to clear the electoral threshold for entering the Knesset, should they be running alone.
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Ahead of last September's elections, talks between Labor and Meretz broke down, with the former instead merging with Gesher, led by former Yisrael Beiteinu parliamentarian Orly Levy-Abekasis. Meretz, meanwhile, partnered with some former Labor politicians and ran as the Democratic Camp.
The right-wing Levy-Abekasis told Channel 12 that the merger with Meretz was merely a "technical" step "required" under the circumstances, reported the Times of Israel.
"Labor-Gesher will continue with the same ideology it has had," she told the channel, stressing the party's socio-economic platform.
She told Channel 12 she did not think she was straying from the political path of her father in that she was committed to "real change" on socio-economic issues.
According to the published details, Labor-Gesher will have six of the first 11 spots in the slate while Meretz will have five. The list will be led by Peretz, with Levy-Abekasis second and Horowitz third.
The next places will go to Meretz's Tamar Zandberg, then Labor's Itzik Shmuli and Merav Michaeli. Former Israeli military deputy chief of staff Yair Golan will be seventh on the list.
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Peretz had informed a meeting of the Labor party directorate yesterday evening of the decision to merge with Meretz, saying: "We have no choice but to unite."
"A joint run of the Zionist left…will save the country and keep it Zionist and democratic," said Labor's Michaeli. Shmuli said the merger was merely a "technical bloc" that could separate post-election.
"We will support any union on the center-left," Horowitz said in a statement. "But the most strategic, vital, immediate and necessary union is between Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Camp to forge a strong Israeli left."
"That's the hope voters are looking for, that's the political and moral act needed at this time, that's the kind of move that could rid us of Netanyahu."