Israel's weakened left-wing unites ahead of March election

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's main left-wing parties have announced they will run on a single ticket in the upcoming March 2 election.

Both Labor and Meretz had been polling dangerously close to the electoral threshold and were under intense pressure to unite into a single bloc so as not to lose valuable votes. Should one of them had failed to enter parliament, it would have all but guaranteed re-election for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist bloc.

Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz will lead the joint list, followed by Orly Levy-Abekasis and then Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz.

Levy-Abekasis, who heads the more centrist Gesher faction, said on Monday that it was merely a “technical union” dictated by reality to save precious votes. The leftist alliance helps bolster Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's chances of unseating Netanyahu.

The March election will be the third in a space of a year, after the previous two rounds produced inconclusive results.

Various right-wing parties are also working to unite before Wednesday's deadline for submitting the final lists of candidates for parliament.

On the opposite end of the Israeli political spectrum, the religious nationalist Jewish Home party announced it would unite on a single ballot with the Jewish Power party.

Jewish Power’s top candidates for the Knesset are successors of the late rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the forced removal of Palestinians and a Jewish theocracy. Kahane's Kach party was banned from the Israeli parliament in the 1980s, and the U.S. classified his Jewish Defense League as a terrorist group.