What happened to Israel’s once-rising political star?


Israeli legislator Orly Levy-Abeksis campaigns at a shopping mall in the town of Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem

Ksenia Svetlova writes in Al Monitor:

“We will change the current reality and carry a message of real social change,” said Knesset member Orly Levy-Abekasis in July when announcing that her party, Gesher, would be joining forces with the Labor Party. Levy-Abekasis and Labor Chairman Amir Peretz spoke of a “historic union” and “tearing down walls.” They also expected to win 15 seats in the September election. The Labor-Gesher alliance ultimately won only six seats, however, and since then almost nothing has been heard from Levy-Abekasis. What happened to the woman who was determined as recently as last year to conquer every political peak and who was considered by many to be the “determining factor” in Israeli politics?

With Israel now racing toward the abyss of a third election, debate about a “big merger” on the left has returned, rooted in the fear that one of the current left-wing parties will fail to pass the four-seat electoral threshold for the Knesset. The most recent polls are not promising, indicating that both the Democratic Camp and Labor-Gesher will lose at least one seat. If the trickle of votes to their big sister party, Blue and White, continues, it is safe to say that pressure on the two will intensify. At the same time, it is also safe to assume that the Democratic Camp, which only won five seats in September and has been willing to join forces with Labor from the start, will be under greater pressure to form such a union. On the other hand, joining forces with the Democratic Camp runs counter to the core thesis of Labor’s Peretz, who believes that a socially oriented left is essential to the country and views a merger with the Democratic Camp as a last resort.

As for Levy-Abekasis, before the last election, she had expressed reservations about a merger with the Democratic Camp, but she has not vetoed that option for the next round. A senior Labor member who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor, “Right now, we are headed toward an independent run as Labor-Gesher and strengthening this alliance.” Meanwhile, another source who also spoke on the condition of anonymity and is close to Levy-Abekasis told Al-Monitor, “If circumstances force Peretz to join forces with the Democratic Camp, in all likelihood, Levy-Abekasis will not be part of it.”

After Gesher’s crushing defeat in the April election — when it failed to pass the electoral threshold — Levy-Abekasis was ready to leave politics, at least temporarily, so she could spend time with her children. Two weeks before the September election, she said that if the merger with Labor did not bring results, she would resign from politics. Someone close to Levy-Abekasis told Al-Monitor that the option of retiring from politics remains.

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