Israel’s Zionist left Labor, Maretz merge to form The Democrats

Two of Israel’s biggest left-wing parties announced a merger on Sunday, naming themselves The Democrats, in what has been described as a potentially important move in Israeli politics.

Labor and Meretz signed the formation of the unified party with primaries set to decide which candidates will run for The Democrats in the next general election.

The Labor Party’s Yair Golan, who was named The Democrats’ secretary-general, said the formation of the left-wing party was essential given the challenges Israelis face with the rising influence of the right and far-right.

“Israel is in its most difficult time and this is the time for decisions – serious security threats, the real danger of annexing millions of Palestinians and the undermining of our delicate fabric of life – all of these require courageous steps. Our public is fighting in the streets to change the face of the country,” he said, according to Haaertz.

“Today we have built a framework that will serve the public as best as possible on the way to promoting elections and replacing the most terrible government since the establishment of the state.”

Labor dominated Israeli politics during the first decades of the Israeli state, with giants such as former prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir belonging to the Labor Party or its successors.

The past few decades have seen a right-wing shift in the electorate, with the Likud Party, currently led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leading recent elections.

In the 2022 election, Labour only just scraped the low-threshold for representation in the Knesset – 3.25 percent – while Meretz, the more left-wing of the two parties, didn’t manage to win any seats.

The unification of the two parties makes it more likely for left-wing representation in the Knesset after the next election.

Balad, a party mostly for Palestinian citizens of Israel, is one of the other dominant leftist parties but won no seats in the last election.

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