Labor chairman Amir Peretz and Gesher Leader Orly Levy-Abecassis announced at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday night that they would be running together in a unified list of their parties in the September 17 election.Seven of the top 10 spots on the united list, which will be called Labor-Gesher, will be reserved for Labor candidates and three for Gesher.“We have found a way to unite and build a political home where there is room for all Israelis,” Peretz said, calling Levy-Abecassis a “woman with a broad view of social justice.”The Labor head stressed that their union will focus on positive messages and socioeconomic issues. The bond is intended to attract Likud voters from the periphery.The Labor-Gesher merger ended hope for a combined Labor-Meretz list. Peretz called new Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz ahead of the press conference to notify him that their two parties would not be running together. Meretz officials expressed outrage at the rejection, with MK Esawi Frej calling Levy-Abecassis “a fig leaf for racists” in her former party, Yisrael Beytenu.“Amir Peretz is repeating Avi Gabbay’s mistake and is destroying the chances of unions in the Left bloc,” Meretz said in a statement after the announcement about Levy-Abecassis.Peretz and Levy-Abecassis agreed that there would be no further mergers for their parties but individuals could still be invited to join. Blue and White welcomed the move, while Likud reacted with indifference.“We welcome any union that will prevent the loss of thousands of votes,” Blue and White said in a statement, adding that “Labor, headed by Peretz and Levy, will join the unity government that [Blue and White] will form.”The Likud responded by saying: “We continue not to interfere in how the Left divides its votes. When we deviate from that, we’ll let you know.”Earlier Thursday, Blue and White, Labor and Meretz MKs united in calls for former prime minister Ehud Barak to sit out the election. Polls have found Barak’s Israel Democratic Party teetering on the 3.25% electoral threshold.“When Barak returned to politics, we welcomed him, but we see he is facing difficulties,” Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon said. “I would advise him to quit the race and not waste votes.”Blue and White MK Yair Lapid went further, saying that Barak remaining in the race could harm the effort to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.“Barak will not cross the threshold and could throw away up to 100,000 votes,” Lapid said. “That could be the difference between a win and a loss. This is not the time for running a party as a hobby. He should do the responsible thing and quit.”Meanwhile on the Right, a well-placed source among the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) told The Jerusalem Post that National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich would prefer to bring Ayelet Shaked into the party and keep Naftali Bennett out.He said the conservative religious elements in URP did not want Bennett in the party because of his liberal attitude to religious and state issues, his engagement with non-Orthodox movements, his support for the Western Wall agreement, and similar matters.The source noted that Bennett has spoken out against senior National-Religious rabbis, such as when he called Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu “impudent” for calling for the dismissal of then IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, was critical of another senior figure – Rabbi Eli Sadan – and declined in general to take into account the positions of religious Zionist rabbis.Shaked has never shown much, if any, inclination to advance liberal policies on religious issues, so some of the rabbis who back Bayit Yehudi and National Union have fewer concerns about her than Bennett.The source also said that many in the right-wing religious parties blame Bennett in general for the failure to form a right-wing government after the April 9 election, since his New Right failed to cross the electoral threshold and “wasted” 140,000 right-wing votes, and are therefore reluctant to bring him back.Smotrich does not believe that current Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz has much electoral value and would therefore be willing to allow Shaked, who has broad appeal in the religious Zionist sector, to join and lead the Bayit Yehudi-National Union joint list.