Israel's left-wing parties unite ahead of elections

2 min

Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel's left-wing Meretz and Labor-Gesher parties announced Monday they have joined forces ahead of March 2 elections to boost their chances against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing base.

Israel's political scene is in turmoil ahead of the third national vote in less than a year after neither Netanyahu nor his centrist rival Benny Gantz were able to form a coalition following two polls last year.

With Israel's two major political blocs almost neck-and-neck, smaller parties and coalitions could emerge as potential kingmakers after the upcoming elections.

The new left-wing joint list called "Emet" -- "truth" in Hebrew -- was agreed by Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz and Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz, who want to join forces against the prime minister's Likud party.

"Peretz and Horowitz stressed the message of union and hope of political change which will be at the social heart and the political direction of the next government after the end of the Netanyahu era," they said in a joint statement.

Labor-Gesher and Meretz won six and five seats respectively last September in the 120-seat Knesset and must clinch at least 3.25 percent of total votes cast in order to enter the legislature after the March polls.

"To have a chance at replacing Netanyahu, the things we have in common are more important than our differences," Peretz said at a press conference alongside Horowitz.

Netanyahu is Israel's longest-serving leader and has vowed to continue his premiership despite being indicted in three separate corruption cases.

He has sought parliamentary immunity, but even if he faces court he does not have to step down until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Netanyahu's main rival Gantz, who heads the Blue and White alliance, praised the leftist parties for coming together.

"I am glad that things worked out and applaud the unification," he said.

"There should be a party to the left of Blue and White, which is a party at the centre of the political stage."

But Horowitz rebuffed Gantz's comments, suggesting right-wing Israelis "can vote for Blue and White".

Three far-right alliances were in talks Monday aimed at uniting ahead of polls, according to Israeli media.

Defence Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday ruled out his New Right party joining an election pact.