With new elections in Israel on their way, pundits are sure to focus on the many polls that have slowly trickled in over the last few months predicting what a third-round might look like. So far, with a few exceptions, they have remained fairly static, pointing to yet another stalemate in which neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Kachol Lavan Chair Benny Gantz proves capable of cobbling together a bare-bones coalition. What’s missing from this conversation, however, is the fact that, like elections past, smaller parties on both the right and the left are once again hovering close to the electoral threshold, making the final tally much harder to predict. This is particularly true on the left, where the pending breakup of the Democratic Union due to disagreements over placement on the party’s slate has now created an even more unstable political landscape.

A new election campaign is also likely to bring back into play Kachol Lavan’s double-edged sword of a strategy that involves convincing voters to not only abandon a tainted Likud but, more problematically, to encourage defection from smaller, left-wing parties who can ill afford to lose any votes.  In the wake of such a possibility, it then stands to reason that every single one of these parties should be attuned to the possible damage wrought on its electoral chances.

Despite the genuine concern of not passing the threshold, the Democratic Union’s likely dissolution leaves some of its constituent parts with several options, provided they have willing partners. Right out of the gate, all involved have the advantage of not having to deal with the albatross that is former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak’s initial insistence to run in September’s elections created a full-blown panic in Meretz that the former’s party would not only fail to enter the Knesset but bring the latter down with him. Those fears were allayed when he ran with Meretz on a joint ticket, strategically placing himself in a relatively unrealistic tenth slot, allowing him to bow out gracefully when it was clear the party would underperform its expectations. With Barak confidant and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death now in the news as a recurring topic, the former prime minister may have understood his presence proved a liability and has decided not to run in the upcoming election.

Taking stock of the polls, Democratic Union head Nitzan Horowitz had already met with Labor leader Amir Peretz in the hopes of, yet again, trying to convince the latter that a merger would be mutually beneficial. Despite Peretz’s declarations that his partnership with Gesher’s Orly Levy-Abekasis would net him a whopping 15 seats (itself a relatively low number considering the party’s past achievements), he was ultimately only able to scrounge together the same number received by former Labor chair Avi Gabbay. Peretz may have decided to initially forego a union with Horowitz on the premise that to do so would drive away more moderate and even right-leaning voters concerned about socio-economic issues. And while he has reiterated once again his lack of interest in a merger for the time being, future polls that predict the same low numbers may eventually force his hand, leaving Levy-Abekasis’s fate uncertain. Additionally, Peretz may now choose to court Israel Democratic Party head and former general Yair Golan, who’s rising political star would be a boon for any party willing to take him in.

Then there is perhaps the least likely but not-out-of-the-question possibility of linkage between Meretz and the Joint List. Such a choice has always been controversial due to the presence on the list of the avowedly anti-Zionist Balad, which would leave many on the Zionist left wary (voters of Balad might likely share the mirror-image of these sentiments, and it is all but certain that Balad would not be party to such an alliance if it involved Meretz). However, given Meretz’s decision to boost Arab MK Esawi Frej (who did not make it into the previous Knesset) as a means of drawing support from the Israeli Arab public, and the desire for the Joint List itself to make inroads into the Jewish electorate, it may be an option worth exploring. Those voters uncomfortable with such a union might then in turn vote for Labor, giving it an infusion of badly needed votes, making it a natural draw for the center-left.

On the right side of the political spectrum, the fate of Jewish Home headed by Rafi Peretz and Tkuma led by Bezalel Smotrich, who recently decided to run together seems, if not as fraught, then not exactly on solid ground either.  Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett of the New Right have so far made clear that their previously poor showings notwithstanding, they are interested in running alone (no doubt bolstered by polls that see them drawing support from other right-wing parties). The union of two flagging parties was ultimately forced once again to turn to the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit, despite the relatively poor results an agreement may deliver and the backlash it may invoke. In fact, the union has already been met with opprobrium, as a number of senior Jewish Home members have come out against Peretz’s unilateral move to approve the merger, forcing an upcoming vote in the party’s Central Committee . Yet even with such approval likely there is no guarantee their combined strength will push them over the line; in fact, it may simply scare voters looking to vote for a more ostensibly respectable party into the arms of the New Right.

There are still a few weeks until the parties are required to submit their final slates, which means numerous possibilities for mergers. Labor may indeed conclude that its current quest to draw votes away from the right is dead in the water and opt for some sort of agreement with Meretz, or even attempt to hitch its ride to Kachol Lavan. A now lone Stav Shaffir who seems determined to create some kind of unified list may in fact succeed in uniting the squabbling factions of the left onto one slate (or risk running alone as the head of the Green Party). And despite their reluctance, the religious Zionist parties may ultimately merge into a single bloc. Whatever the decision, these smaller parties must find a creative way to join forces or draw new voters, lest they be forced to deal with becoming collateral damage in an ugly election campaign where larger parties will gladly siphon off of their votes.