In the April elections, Likud received 35 mandates in the Knesset. Since absorbing Moshe Kahlon and his socioeconomic-oriented Kulanu party, Likud has consistently polled between 29 and 32 seats and has lost ground to parties to its right. Kahlon himself had barely made it over the electoral threshold four months ago. Gesher, the socioeconomic party led by Orly Levy-Abekasis, didn’t come especially close to crossing the electoral threshold.

Barring a dramatic development between now and Thursday evening, the deadline for parties to submit their list of candidates for the September 17 election, Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz will head into the September election guided by the belief that Israelis are hungrier for an economics-focused party than they were in April. Peretz’s decision to run on a joint ticket with Gesher in the upcoming election, giving that party three of the first ten slots on the merged list, came as a shock to those who expected him to take a harder line against joining a right-wing government than his predecessors.

Reportedly, as part of the pact, Peretz ruled out any unity agreement with Meretz, which in turn decided to serve as the foundation for a new leftist political movement – the Democratic Union – with Ehud Barak and Stav Shaffir, former Labor Party members who are planning to recruit more of their old colleagues.

The merger with Gesher received almost unanimous derision on the ideological left, but it also has its sensible proponents. Writing in Ha’aretz, Carolina Landsmann reminded Israeli progressives that they routinely lament their lack of appeal to the majority of Mizrahi Jews, a community to which both Peretz and Levy-Abekasis belong. This is fair enough, but the criticism that Peretz tied his hands unnecessarily and gave away too much to lure Gesher remains valid. Yet this merger need not be disastrous for two reasons.

First, Gesher’s relevance now opens the door to a possible Labor-Kachol Lavan merger. Prior to linking up with Yesh Atid, Benny Gantz had considered merging with Gesher but opted for the better option when it became available. A law meant to deter defections from Knesset factions prevented Levy-Abkeasis from running on a list that included party that existed in the same Knesset (Yesh Atid), but this is no longer an obstacle now that a new Knesset was sworn in. While the aborted talks created some bad blood between Gantz and the Gesher chairwoman, her value as a former Yisrael Beteinu MK and daughter of a popular foreign minister has not diminished by much since then. Finding room in the mammoth alliance for Labor-Gesher would ensure the opposition bloc does not lose a single seat to the electoral threshold.

Right now, Labor-Gesher joining Kachol Lavan is nowhere on the political radar. My guess is it won’t happen. But if it does, it would be the closest thing this tiresome repeat election would have to a “big bang.”

Second, the political map has already sorted itself to something resembling a realistic opposition “blocking” coalition: a main party of the center to compete with Likud (Kachol Lavan), an umbrella party for the Zionist left (Democratic Union), a reborn Joint List, and Labor-Gesher. Only one of these groups, Labor-Gesher, is polling within 2-3 seats of the electoral threshold. It’s likely to cross it, but if it’s close it can still launch a gevalt or S.O.S. campaign to win back its core supporters without endangering any other party in the opposition.

Contrast this with the mess on the rightist side of the political map. Hayamin Hehadash is now led by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who announced a “technical bloc” this week with the Union of Right-Wing Parties. However, this time the UWRP may not include the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit, which plans to run alone or in coordination with Noam, a small far-right party. Zehut, the party led by Moshe Feiglin that flushed 118,000 right-wing votes down the electoral threshold, plans to compete as well. A possibility is that Zehut and Otzma Yehudit could run together. In that case, I hope (and predict) the urbane libertarians who fell for Feiglin’s sleight of hand last time will run far away from such a Frankenstein alliance.

The right is set to waste fewer votes than it did last time, around 360,000, but it will probably waste somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 votes if current conditions hold. I believe Peretz made a mistake gambling with Gesher, but the logic of the alliance is not totally senseless for the Labor Party. And if it does turn out to be a mistake, it shouldn’t be a fatal one for the opposition bloc as a whole.