The Israeli left is dead, or very nearly so, based on the results of Monday’s elections – and according to Amir Peretz, head of the unified Labor-Meretz-Gesher list, the party’s poor showing was the result of Blue and White’s mishandling of its campaign. “We did everything we were asked, we backed Benny Gantz, we signed a vote exchange agreement with Blue and White,” Peretz said in a concession speech early Tuesday. “But at the critical moment Blue and White hurt us,” in an attempt to siphon votes away from Peretz. “They grabbed our votes.” With 90% of the votes counted Tuesday morning, the list has 7 seats – nearly half the representation in the short-lived 22nd Knesset, when Labor and Meretz ran separately.
But analysts saw things a bit differently. An analysis of the votes in what should have been the strongholds of Labor – the home towns of Peretz and Gesher head Orly Levy-Abukasis – showed that both candidates did very poorly. Labor-Meretz-Gesher got 3.5% of the votes in Sderot, where Peretz hails from – compared to 53% for the Likud. In Beit She’an, Levy-Abukasis’ town, the party got 1.5%, with the Likud drawing 62% of the vote.
Analysts on Reshet Bet Tuesday said that Peretz was likely on his way out as the head of what was for decades the dominant political force in Israel. But that was unlikely to happen without a fight; Channel 12 quoted Labor insiders as saying that Peretz has no intention of resigning, despite the party’s poor showing.
It’s also unclear if the party will remain united in the Knesset – or if one of its components might even break away and join a government led by Binyamin Netanyahu. The most likely candidate for that would be Levy-Abukasis, whose father, David Levy, was a Likud MK and minister who served in numerous governments, including those of Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir. Media reports Tuesday said that Likud officials have already reached out to her.
Levy-Abukasis said in a social media post Monday night that she was thankful to activists who acted on behalf of the triumvirate. “I saw you in the field today, working hard to spread your beliefs. You proved that you care, that you can work for the things you believe in. Thank you for choosing me to represent you. I hope we will all wake up tomorrow to a new era, that I will be represent you faithfully.” After several minutes, she erased the post, as it sounded as if she were preparing to join the government soon to be formed to represent those who voted for her.