Labor Deal with Gesher Roils Left Wing

YERUSHALAYIM -

Labor party’s new No. 1 Amir Peretz surprised and shocked a lot of people last week when he called off an almost done deal to merge with the left-wing Meretz in favor of the more centrist Orly Levy-Abecassis to the electoral list.

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz didn’t like the surprise, and neither did Labor MK Stav Shaffir.

The reaction from Meretz was no doubt expected. Nobody likes to be dumped at the last minute. On Sunday, Horowitz accused Peretz of having “spit in the face of his voters” and claimed over KAN radio that last Thursday’s betrayal brought angry Labor activists over to Meretz.

What was perhaps less expected by Peretz—and more dangerous for him—was the reaction within Labor, in particular from the runner-up in the race three weeks ago for the leadership, Stav Shaffir.

“To the Left of the large Blue and White there are three parties, and without mergers, one or two simply won’t cross the electoral threshold,” Shaffir lamented online Sunday. “Precious mandates of the public we represent will go to the trash and Bibi [Prime Minister Netanyahu] will win the election on a silver platter.”

Shaffir furthermore accused Peretz of breaking his campaign promise to link up with parties on the Left, and instead moving rightward toward Gesher.

Despite her protest, the agreement with Gesher was approved by Labor’s executive committee on Sunday, and there seemed no going back.

Peretz defended his strategic decision, saying that a deal with Meretz or Ehud Barak would have harmed Labor’s future, which he argued lies in attracting center and right-wing voters away from Netanyahu.

“There is no chance to connect to Barak or Meretz, because connecting with them will build walls preventing sectors who want to connect to us and to be part of the upheaval,” Peretz told Army Radio.

Meanwhile, Meretz MKs met on Sunday to discuss the bleak range of options: combining with Barak’s Israel Democratic Party or the Arab-Jewish Hadash party or running alone in the September 17 election.

Hadash party leader Ayman Odeh told Army Radio that he would not rule out an alliance with Meretz.