Under new leader, Meretz party considers mergers for stronger showing in September

After winning the party leadership,  Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz expressed his willingness to talk to the Labor Party about setting up a left-wing bloc.

By World Israel News Staff 

Amid the political flurry of activity ahead of the September 17 election, the left-wing Meretz party has elected a new leader and is hoping to be part of a larger parliamentary bloc that could challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The Likud and Blue and White each finished with 35 seats in the April Knesset election, but Netanyahu was given the nod to form a government because parties representing a majority of MKs voiced support for him over Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White.

However, after the Likud failed to reach agreements with other parties on setting up a governing coalition, the Knesset voted to call another election to take place in September.

On Thursday, Meretz voted, in a party primary, to make former MK Nitzan Horowitz its new leader in place of MK Tamar Zandberg.

Horowitz expressed his willingness to talk to the Labor Party about setting up a left-wing bloc ahead of the parliamentary ballot, in an effort to tilt the balance of power away from Netanyahu. Last week’s aggressive entry into the race by former prime minister Ehud Barak, setting up a new party and speaking of the need to topple the incumbent prime minister, is seen as part of the same effort.

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The Labor Party is about to hold its primary for a new leader, and one of the candidates, MK Itzik Shmuli, says that if victorious, he would call Barak immediately to discuss how they could join forces.

Back in the 1990s, the Labor Party and Meretz worked together under Labor Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to sign agreements with the Palestinians, forming the Palestinian Authority and granting it self-rule in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. The ultimate plan was to establish a Palestinian state but it never materialized as Palestinian terrorism in Israel surged.

Labor and Meretz were able to form a center-left government by defeating then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the Likud, in the 1992 Knesset election.