The surprising merger of the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties last Thursday has caused political panic among center-left parties. Analysts believe the merger sharpened the differences in the platforms of the Right and Left and is forcing parties to choose between the two blocs, although Yesh Atid and Kadima continue to present themselves as centrist parties.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, both of whom led Kadima in the past, are expected to announce this week whether they will return to the political arena. In an interview on Channel 2 on Friday, former MK and minister Haim Ramon, who is said to be close to both, called on the Center-Left to unify and then choose a leader. Many politicians believe that Olmert will return to politics in light of the merger of the two largest right-wing parties.
Former Labor Chairman Amir Peretz also called for unification of the Left. Peretz spoke with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz on Saturday, and urged them to unite against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peretz suggested that party heads refrain from proposing to President Shimon Peres that Netanyahu form the next government, and instead propose that the head of the leftist party that obtains the most votes form the next government. Chances that party leaders would agree to do so, however, were considered to be slim and some analysts believe Yesh Atid, Kadima and possibly other left-wing parties would agree to join a Likud-Yisrael Beytenu government.
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On called on all centrist parties, including Labor and Yesh Atid, to work together with her party after the elections. "Center-Left party leaders must commit before all Israeli citizens to join hands and prevent the establishment of a 'Biberman' government," she said.
As chances of Olmert running in the upcoming elections fade, chances of Livni renewing her political career appear to be growing. Members of Kadima close to Livni say she has not yet decided whether to return, but is close to doing so and is leaning towards a comeback.
A group of 14 women met with Livni in her home in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Leah Frida, one of those who visited Livni and a candidate for one of the spots reserved for women on Labor's list, said after the meeting that Livni "is aware of the fact that she has some leverage and there is an opportunity for her now." Frida said Livni was pondering whether she should return to politics and would make her decision in the coming days.
Yachimovich reiterated on Saturday that Livni "has a place in Israeli politics." But, on Olmert, Yachimovich said, "I do not accept his [Olmert's] return to politics. I do not accept that a person who was convicted of criminal acts, and is still awaiting verdicts in other cases and a decision on an appeal by the prosecution of his acquittal in yet another case, may join the political arena."
Meanwhile, after MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) announced that she was leaving Kadima and joining Labor, MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) followed suit and said he was also joining Labor, due to the urgent necessity of "unifying the Center and forming a counterforce that can win the elections."