JERUSALEM — A group of high-profile Israeli politicians, intellectuals and business leaders have banded together to form a dovish faction ahead of February elections, worried by polls that give hard-line opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu a strong chance of winning.
The group hopes to breathe new life into Israel's peace movement. But its gains could come at the expense of the mainstream Labor Party, which dominated Israel's political and economic life for its first three decades. Many of the members are leaving Labor, saying it no longer stands for social equality and isn't vigorously promoting a peace agenda.
"I hope the expanded leftist movement will become a replacement for the Labor Party," the newspaper Haaretz quoted author Amos Oz as saying. "The Labor Party has finished its historic role, it isn't putting forward a national agenda and it joins any coalition."
The acclaimed author was among 30 prominent Israelis who announced the formation of the movement on Friday. Other members are Avraham Burg, former speaker of parliament, and Tsali Reshef, founder of the Peace Now movement.
The group is not forming a new party. Instead, it hopes to bolster Meretz, a leftist party that has been largely confined to the political fringe in recent elections.
Supporters are disillusioned that Labor leader Ehud Barak, who is defense minister in the current government, hasn't suspended construction in Jewish settlements or taken down wildcat settler outposts.
They're also disappointed that Barak hasn't ruled out joining a Netanyahu government if his Likud party wins the Feb. 10 vote. Polls predict Labor finishing a distant third, behind Likud and the centrist Kadima.