Meretz launched its election campaign Tuesday morning with a call by its chairwoman, Zahava Gal-On, on all parties not to agree to a rotation of the premiership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and not to enter a government under his leadership.
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“On March 17 there will be a revolution here and Israel will have a new government, not rotation and a distorted unity government that would give Netanyahu another four years in power, because rotation with Netanyahu is defeatism,” Gal-On said at the launch, at the Zionist Organization of America house in Tel Aviv.
Referring to Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog, Gal-On said: “We will protect Herzog and make sure he does not lose direction, that he does not rotate with Bibi and does not lose courage.”
In response to a question from Haaretz as to why Meretz was not joining the joint ticket that Labor and Hatnuah had formed, Galon said “unification would only chase away voters.” According to Gal-On, the move by Herzog and Hatnuah chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni was important “to unify the bloc, but if we want a large and significant bloc, then Labor needs a party to its left, large and strong, that will influence the direction the bloc takes, because this bloc could also be center-right.”
Speaking of the recent corruption scandals in public service, Gal-On said the arrests “reveal a rotten system led by people from Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud, as well as people from Habayit Hayehudi on the Knesset Finance Committee.”
She also attacked the heads of other parties for not speaking out against corruption. “Does it sound logical that not one chair of the big parties standing for election came out publicly against the corruption in Yisrael Beiteinu? They are all silent, busy with all kinds of cynical tactical calculations,” she said.
Nissim Duek, communications consultant of the Meretz campaign – which was launched under the slogan “revolution with Meretz” – said: “Our research shows that contrary to what many people think, there is a large leftist audience that defines itself as a leftist audience, and our challenge in the campaign is to connect the left to Meretz.”
Duek said the campaign’s research shows that more than 80 percent of those polled defined themselves as leftists and proud of it.
According to Duek, a Meretz poll revealed that more than 60 percent of Meretz voters are satisfied with the party’s functioning – more than any other party in the Knesset. “One of the reasons for this satisfaction is that Meretz is a party that maintains its high standards. It has no MK suspected of corruption and it does not bow down to fixers,” Duek said, noting that 60 percent of Meretz voters are women, and that the campaign would place special emphasis on gender.
Meretz members on Monday voted for the 1,000 representatives of its new central committee, which is expected to re-elect Gal-On, who is running unopposed, as chairwoman. On January 19 the committee will vote on the Meretz faction’s ticket. Twenty-five people have submitted their candidacy for the list. According to the electoral system in Meretz, every candidate must announce which group of five candidates on the roster he or she is running for. Each group of five candidates has two places reserved for each gender.
Opinion polls predict Meretz will garner between five and eight seats in the next Knesset.
Ten candidates are running for the first five places on the ticket (places 2–6). These include current Meretz MKs Ilan Gilon, Nitzan Horowitz, Michal Rosin, Issawi Freij and Tamar Zandberg, former MKs Avshalom Vilan and Mossi Raz, Tel Aviv City Councilwoman Gabi Lasky, former U.S. director of the human rights group B’Tselem Uri Zaki and political psychology expert Dr. Ron Shavit. The party says it expects its current MKs to retain their seats.
From slot 7 and onward the candidates are: Conservative Rabbi Ehud Bandel, former head of the Masorti Movement; Ramat Hasharon city councilman Idan Lamdan; Kfar Sava city councilwoman Revital Lan Cohen; Avi Dabush, director of programming for the social action group Shatil; Givatayim city councilwoman Vivi Wolfson; Dalia Steiner, a former producer and editor for Channel 1; Itai Svirsky, a founder of the labor union Koach Laovdim; Dr. Itzhak Zinger, a former principle of the Alliance School in Tel Aviv; social activist David Kashani; Dr. Roberto Della Rocca head of quality, health and corporate responsibility for the food chain Supersol; Nes Tziona city councilwoman Smadar Aharoni; Nir Lahav, director of the Jewish Agency’s social activism project; Jerusalem city councilwoman Dr. Laura Wharton; Tom Dromi-Hakim, a member of the board of directors of the credit union Ofek; and social activist and Meretz youth coordinator Tal Grinshpan.