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Labor and far-left Meretz merge, establish 'The Democrats' as new ‘liberal-democratic Zionist party’

Merger marks end of historical Labor party that led Israel during its first 30 years

"The Democrats," a new Israeli party, led by Yair Golan, July 2024. (Photo: Social Media)

Israel's two left-wing parties – Labor and Meretz – officially announced their merger under the new name, “The Democrats,” to be led by newly-elected Labor chairman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yair Golan.

“Unlike in the past, this is not a ‘technical bloc,’ but a historic move that finally creates one large and united party, a liberal-democratic Zionist party that will serve as a political home for a large public in Israel,” the newly established party declared.

“The union is a necessary step in building a large and strong democratic base that will lead to the replacement of the extreme right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The new party will be home for all the forces fighting for democracy and the image of Israel in recent years: Protest organizations... civil society, youth movements… [and] reserve organizations fighting for equal burden,” the Democrats said in a statement.

The party hopes to capitalize on the large-scale protest movements against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government and promised a modern electoral platform for the “revival of a democratic, safe, and free State of Israel in the spirit of the values ​​of the Declaration of Independence.”

In recent years, both the traditionally center-left Labor and the more radical Meretz party barely stayed above the election threshold, leading activists of both parties to demand a unification to shore up the ideological left wing of Israel’s political scene.

In the last elections, the Labor party sank to the minimum of four seats under the leadership of radical feminist Merav Michaeli. Yair Golan initially joined a Meretz-led list after completing his army service. He represented Meretz in the Knesset from 2019 until 2022, when the party failed to pass the threshold.

In 2024, Golan entered the Labor primaries with the promise of uniting with Meretz and was elected as chairman in May.

Under the merger agreement, the party list for the next election will be chosen in a primary election by party members.

At least one representative from Meretz will be included in the 4th, 8th, 12th, and 16th places on the list, according to the merger agreement, with a similar guarantee of at least 25% representation applying to the new party’s institutions.

After the next election, there will be no such guarantees and the party will function as one bloc, like any other party.

“One of the goals I set for us is to create connections that will lead to the full use of the camp’s electoral potential,” stated Golan.

“This is a necessary political, public, and ethical goal. The State of Israel is in its most difficult time and this is the time of decisions – serious security threats and the undermining of our delicate fabric of life – all of these require courageous steps.”

“Our public is fighting in the streets, squares and bridges to change the face of the country. Today we built a framework that will serve the public as best as possible in the way of promoting elections and replacing the most terrible government since the founding of the country. Meretz is a significant partner in this connection and will continue to be,” Golan added.

Meretz Sec.-Gen. Tomer Reznik stated: “This is the only political body that bravely raises the political, social and civil flag and Israel must make fateful decisions in these areas.”

Golan is known for his inflammatory statements, especially for criticizing Netanyahu and his government.

His most infamous remarks came in 2016, during his tenure as the IDF deputy chief of staff, when he likened the rightward shift in Israeli society to similar processes leading up to Germany's Nazi leadership in World War II.

He repeated the comparison three years later when he was elected as a Knesset Member for Meretz, warning against right-wing candidates in a statement: “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically."

The Labor-Meretz merger marks the end of the once-proud Labor Party, which, as the successor to the earlier Mapai Party, dominated Israel’s political scene even before the state's founding and led all governments until the Likud party defeated it for the first time in 1977.

A recent poll predicted the newly-formed party, "The Democrats" would receive around 10 mandates in the next election, which would be considered a big win and the far-left party's best results in years.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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