Now that Labor and Meretz have both held leadership primaries in anticipation of September’s election, and the Joint List is in the (albeit slow) process of reuniting, we have a better idea of how close the  smaller, self-identified parties of the left may be to establishing a united political bloc. The operative word, of course, is “better”; elections are still over two months away, an eternity in Israeli time, and recently released polls are only a slightly more helpful way to gauge where the electorate will eventually end up. Nevertheless, there are several options available to the anti-Netanyahu bloc to help it consolidate its power and avoid past mistakes, including the  creation of a unified left-wing slate, as well as an implicit understanding of each “sub-bloc” to focus on a certain segment of voters.

Although there have been some signs that a merger is in the works, it may  have been stymied, due in part to a history of bad blood between newly elected Labor chair Amir Peretz and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Peretz unequivocally voiced support for a partnership between some or all of the left-leaning parties, yet he seems to be biding his time in drawing support to his own party in the hopes of leveraging political power within a prospective bloc. Belying his reputation, Barak has even offered to cede his place as the head of this hypothetical bloc if it brings in more votes, although skepticism still abounds. And while the election of former MK Nitzan Horowitz to Meretz leadership brought with it an enthusiastic push for partnership with Labor and Barak’s Israel Democratic Party, a recent meeting with Barak seems to have made little progress. This leaves the parties with less than a month to decide about running together, but for those who might be jittery at the notion of failing to agree on a combined slate, recall that Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid only decided on coming together to form Kachol Lavan at the eleventh hour.

Still, given the egos involved, the prospect of a situation in which a merger between only two parties, or, worse still, none occurs is a real possibility. As I previously wrote, Barak’s return to politics as a solo act has the dangerous potential to cause major electoral damage to the center-left, first by drawing votes away from other parties, failing to cross the threshold, and then subsequently ruining the prospects of either Labor or Meretz (or both). But if Barak’s entry into the race may have initially viewed by many of his detractors as a solely negative contribution to the left, it may prove instead to be a silver lining. One might imagine it as a sunk cost: Barak has committed to running regardless of the nightmare scenario that may come to pass if the vote is split between too many parties. Those competing with him for votes would be wise to find a way to co-opt him into whatever political arrangement they envision, to further justify a necessary merger.

The former prime minister, expecting to be received with open arms by his old constituents, cannot be anything but disappointed by initial polling that sees his party receiving a paltry six seats or failing entirely to enter the Knesset. If this trend continues in subsequent polls, Barak may ultimately conclude that running alone — never his ideal option — is simply out of the question, and will be forced to drastically soften any demands he makes of his potential partners, particularly Peretz, with whom he has a fraught relationship. Additionally, Tamar Zandberg’s defeat as Meretz chair now calls into question any attempts at a Jewish-Arab political union that would have included parts of the former Joint List. That attempted union, however, was already thrown into doubt when Hadash leader Ayman Odeh informed Zandberg that his first priority was reviving the Joint List after April’s near-disastrous results. Although this is good news for Israeli Arab turnout, which was severely reduced in part due to anger over the Joint List’s dissolution, it leaves the Meretz leader with one less option. Already inclined towards the center-left, this closed door may force Horowitz to work through whatever disagreements he has with Peretz and Barak. Failure to come to some sort of modus vivendi could put this cluster of parties into the same problematic situation in which the far-right currently finds itself . And while a merging of those parties actually seems less likely at present, a theoretical partnership between them could, as Ha’aretz’s Yossi Verter points out, shock their left-wing counterparts into an agreement.

Moving to the center of the bloc, Kachol Lavan co-leader Yair Lapid has responded to Barak’s suggestions to create a united bloc with a dismissive assertion that the former prime minister is part of the left, and therefore not a suitable partner for his party. Some might bemoan what appears to be a short-sighted strategy to win over right-leaning votes, but a large bloc encompassing every party whose express goal is of replacing Netanyahu may not be the most beneficial. Focusing on too broad of an electorate led Kachol Lavan to draw votes away from smaller left-leaning parties, cannibalizing and endangering its smaller potential partners, while drawing relatively little strength from the right or center-right. The near-obsession with winning the most seats in the hope of being the first party tasked with coalition-building has routinely distracted from the far more advantageous goal of having a sufficient number of mandates in the overall bloc.

Instead, Kachol Lavan now has the additional opportunity of exploiting the fissures on the right that opened up in the wake of newly-called elections. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s inclusion on the Likud slate has no doubt angered many of his remaining voters who supported his Kulanu party for its ostensible independence from Netanyahu. The merger should have added mandates to Likud yet it has, according to a number of polls, done very little to bolster the prime minister’s party. The severely reduced number of voters that supported Kahlon in April should now be easier targets for Kachol Lavan, as well as disaffected voters angered by Netanyahu’s seemingly unnecessary decision to force new elections. Furthermore, Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman’s astute framing of the elections as a battle against religious coercion and radicalization should be utilized by Lapid and Gantz to attract right-wingers fed up with pandering to religious and ultra-national elements.

The creation of three distinct voting blocs within the center-left—a center/center-right coalition of Kachol Lavan, a theoretical grouping of parties made up of the bulk of the Zionist left, and the Joint List made up of predominately Israeli Arab parties—will allow for a situation in which there is less of a risk in parties with the same end goal from going after the same votes and harming potential coalition partners. Ultimately, steps must be taken in order to make certain all major parties involved make it past the electoral threshold; the egoism that has routinely plagued the left these past few years must be fully subsumed in the face of political oblivion, a lesson that should have been immediately internalized following these past elections.