Israel’s November 2022 elections created a literally existential challenge for the Israeli left. After a mooted electoral alliance between Labor and Meretz was rejected by the former and failed to materialize, Meretz fell just short of clearing the electoral threshold. This meant it was left out of the Knesset for the first time since its formation in 1992, and its 150 thousand votes were discarded under Israeli election rules. Labor, for its part, barely squeaked by the threshold, but was left in a weakened state with only four seats.
Meanwhile, the Joint List, which had been an electoral alliance of the four main political forces in the Arab community (Hadash, Ta’al, Ra’am and Balad), continued to unravel. After the decision of Ra’am (United Arab List) to run independently in 2021, the Balad party determined to go it alone in 2022. But while Ra’am succeeded in establishing itself as a political force, entering Knesset and becoming part of an anti-Netanyahu coalition, Balad failed to clear the threshold and its roughly 140 thousand votes went to waste. As a result, the rump Hadash-Ta’al electoral list was reduced in size.
The blows sustained by the Israeli left, alongside the growing radicalization of the Israeli right, have created a moment of reckoning, which figures in Israel’s progressive camp are now beginning to address.
Last month, Knesset Member (MK), Rabbi Gilad Kariv, of the Labor party, issued a public call via Facebook (and soon after via an op-ed in Haaretz) for the creation of a new left-Zionist party that would represent a full “unification of forces” of Labor, Meretz, and others. While recognizing that Labor and Meretz sometimes had “differences”, even on “significant questions”, Kariv argued that such disagreements represent the exception, not the rule, and that the two parties share a much greater common agenda. This includes support for democracy, equality, social justice, religious freedom, personal and national security, Jewish-Arab partnership, and the quest for peace and ending Israel’s domination of the Palestinian people. Labor and Meretz, Kariv wrote, are both committed to the vision of an Israel that can simultaneously be the homeland of the Jewish people and the democratic state of the country’s citizens.
Kariv stressed that his initiative would go beyond the creation of what is called in Israel a “technical bloc”, i.e., an electoral alliance of two or more parties in which votes are shared but each party remains independent. Instead, he called to establish joint institutions and organizational frameworks for a brand-new successor political entity.
In response to Kariv, Uri Zaki, chair of the Meretz Executive, published his own op-ed, endorsing the Labor MK’s initiative. Zaki seconded Kariv’s proposal for a full merger, and emphasized that the new party needed to begin with a “reboot” so that it could effectively address Israel’s contemporary challenges. And just last week it was reported that the Meretz Executive had set up a team of senior party figures to “examine political linkups”, a development which Kariv publicly applauded. The team includes former party chair Chaim Oron, party secretary-general Tomer Reznick, and former MKs Mossi Raz, Michal Rozin, Ali Salalaha, Yair Golan, and Gabby Lasky. We continue to follow developments and will update you in the weeks and months ahead as news emerges.
This email is part of a series of ongoing Partners for Progressive Israel reports and programs dealing with the state of the Israeli left and moves designed to reinvigorate it. In this context, you are cordially invited to our Wednesday, June 7 webinar in which we will host the co-founders of the new Jewish-Arab party, “All Its Citizens”, Avrum Burg and Prof. Faisal Azaiza.