Barak failing to woo Laborites puts Meretz deal in jeopardy

Barak convened an elderly crowd of some 400 supporters in Savion, most of whom voted for Labor in the past.

July 25, 2019 03:31
2 minute read.
Ehud Barak speaks at a meeting in Savion, July 24 2019

Ehud Barak speaks at a meeting in Savion, July 24 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

With one week to go before next Thursday’s deadline to submit lists to the Central Elections Committee, the final possible merger on the Left – between Meretz and former prime minister Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party – made progress on Wednesday.

But Meretz officials continued to insist on Barak bringing with him current or former Labor MKs. Despite Barak meeting with Labor MKs Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shaffir, both said they intend to remain with Labor.

Barak convened an elderly crowd of some 400 supporters in Savyon, most of whom voted for Labor in the past. But the only well-known figure in the crowd was Orna Angel, who served as a member of the Knesset with the Labor Party for one week in February 2006 and now works for Barak’s party.

“Eighty-five percent of center-left voters say they want unity,” Barak said. “What is preventing it are leaders who care where they will be on lists. I call upon leaders of Meretz and Labor to put all that aside. The public needs to hold them accountable.”

The crowd was upset that Labor leader Amir Peretz decided to merge Labor with the socioeconomically focused Gesher party of former MK Orly Levy-Abecassis instead of with Meretz and Barak’s party.

A late-night meeting between Barak and Meretz MK Esawi Frej, in which Barak agreed to let Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz head the list, was mediated by Shaffir.

The meeting took place at the home of Israel Democratic Party candidate Noa Rothman and went on for some nine hours. One of the decisions made was that Meretz MKs would receive preferential treatment on the joint list.

Among the agreements reached is that Barak would be 10th on the list, but would have first pick of portfolios if the party enters a coalition.

Barak explained his concession by saying that what matters is not who heads the list, but whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains prime minister. “We don’t have time to waste on games of ego,” Barak said. “Our most urgent mission is to unite.”

Horowitz downplayed the reports of progress in the negotiations, saying, “we are a serious party that insists on the values we represent being maintained.”

Peretz denied reports that the door was still open to a merger with Barak during a speech launching the Labor campaign in Tel Aviv. “There will not be a merger with Ehud Barak,” he said. “His story with [convicted pedophile and business partner Jeffrey] Epstein is very dangerous. You cannot sit with such a person. What would we do if the story continues to develop?”

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz mocked both Barak and Netanyahu at a rally of supporters at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel.

“We have a former prime minister who is near the electoral threshold and fights with people, and a prime minister in a temporary government who is up to his neck in probes, and they are fighting over bottle caps and credit cards,” Gantz said. “We aren’t playing that game.”

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