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Israeli Political Scene Shaken Up By Left-wing Merger

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak has led his newly established Israel Democratic Party into an alliance with the left-wing Meretz party along with Stav Shaffir, a rising political star who recently lost her bid to lead the Labor Party. The joint list is being called the Democratic Camp. Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz will hold the top slot, with Shaffir as his Number 2. Barak will be Number 10. Numerous, albeit premature, opinion polls have shown that if the Israel Democratic Party and Meretz were to run separately in the upcoming election, to be held on September 17, they both would hover on the cusp of the 3.25 percent threshold necessary for entering the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Somewhat surprisingly, Labor, which sought to strengthen its own questionable chances by recently merging with the centrist Gesher party, welcomed the move, saying in a statement: “We are happy that Ehud Barak is joining [with] the Meretz list, which will prevent votes in the [left-wing] camp from being lost.” Likewise, former Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg called the decision “a dramatic step to strengthen the Left” and bolster “positions of justice and equality as an alternative to the corrupt and messianic right wing.” On the opposite end of the political spectrum, former justice minister Ayelet Shaked has returned to the fray, announcing this week that she would head the New Right party. Concurrently, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly offered the United Right list made up of Rafi Peretz’s Bayit Yehudi and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union parties two ministerial posts in the next government if they include the ultra-Right Otzma Yehudit party on their list. If that merger goes through, Netanyahu is apparently considering overtures to Shaked as well in order to create a massive right-wing bloc that would hold more seats than the Center and Left.