“We have no choice, we need to merge,” Amir Peretz said in the closed-door meeting.
“Peretz and Horowitz intend to emphasize the message of this significant union and the hope for political change that will be the social heart and political compass of the next government after the end of the Netanyahu era,” the parties wrote in a joint statement.
Peretz will head the list and will be followed by Labor-Gesher Leader Orly Levy-Abecassis, Horowtz, Meretz Faction Head Tamar Zandberg and Labor faction head Itzik Shmuli.
Peretz had been against joining forces with the party to Labor’s left until now. He instead sought a deal with Blue and White, which was rejected last week by leader Benny Gantz. But a poll Labor sponsored indicating Meretz may not cross the 3.25% electoral threshold persuaded Peretz that he had to take action.
“We have no choice, we need to merge,” Peretz said in the closed-door meeting.
Peretz formed a negotiating team of Labor secretary-general Eran Hermoni and former minister Ophir Pines-Paz. But the negotiations already began on Sunday night in a meeting of Peretz and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, who is a strong supporter of the merger.
The Labor leader said he would ensure that all six current Labor-Gesher MKs enter the next Knesset, including Gesher party leader Orly Levy-Abecassis. Levy-Abecassis, who is a former Yisrael Beytenu MK, strongly opposes running with Meretz.
Labor will demand seven of the first 10 slots on the list, which would leave room for only two Meretz MKs, because Meretz’s third candidate is outsider Yair Golan. The fate of former Labor and current Democratic Union MK Stav Shaffir remains unclear, because the fifth slot on the Meretz list she was offered will likely only be 13th on the joint list.
Peretz told reporters outside Labor’s faction meeting on Sunday night that just like Levy-Abecassis was Labor’s responsibility, Shaffir was the responsibility of Meretz.
The poll Labor sponsored found that if Labor and Meretz run together, they will win 11 seats in the March election, just like they won in September when they ran separately.