Feted Author Amos Oz Says New Leftist Party Will Replace Labor

Author to Haaretz: For many years there's been large gap between what Labor says and what it does.

"I hope the expanded leftist movement will become a replacement for the Labor Party," author Amos Oz told Haaretz on Saturday. "The Labor Party has finished its historic role, it isn't putting forward a national agenda and it joins any coalition," Oz said. He was among 30 intellectuals and public figures who attended the Tel Aviv press conference Friday at which the official launch of a new left-wing party modeled after Meretz was announced.

Referring to the refusal by Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak to commit to not joining a coalition headed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Oz said "For many years there has been a large gap between what the Labor Party says and what it does." He added that he hoped the new bloc's potential can be translated into a Knesset list consisting of Meretz members, ex-Laborites, environmentalists, supporters of Dov Khenin in the just-finished Tel Aviv mayoral elections, Reform Jews and Arabs.

The new party has apparently not yet carried out a poll to judge the degree of public support it can expect. "I always think in double-digit numbers," Meretz chairman Haim Oron said Friday. The new party doesn't yet have a new name. In light of the desire of new members for "rebranding," alternatives, the "Meretz" name will be evaluated in the coming days.

"The name must be changed because we aren't joining Meretz, we are creating a center-left bloc," Kucik said. "Our positions are close to those of Meretz but in order to break the glass ceiling we first need to change the name."

Among those who attended Friday's gathering were former Labor Cabinet minister Uzi Baram; Gilad Sher, who was the PMO legal adviser under Barak; Hebrew University law professor Mordechai Kremnitzer; Peace Now founder and former Labor MK Tzali Reshef, and former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg.

Absent from the meeting were Labor Mks who have been talking with Oron for some weeks about the possibility of forming a new party. Despite his anticipated resignation from Labor, MK Ami Ayalon has not reach an agreement with Oron on joining. Oron has rejected Ayalon's demands for a guaranteed spot in the party leadership or number-two ranking on the list and for the holding of a poll to choose the party's head.

No decisions were made at Friday's meeting. According to the organizers, some of the attendees will run for the Knesset on the new list but it's not yet clear which plan to leave their current pursuits for the campaign.

The attendees resolved on Friday that the goal of the new alignment was to establish "a new political movement that will gather under its wings the peace-supporting, social-democrat camp in Israel." There was talk of the party's list of Knesset candidates comprising the Meretz leadership and new members, but the mechanism by which this would occur was not discussed. One possibility calls for alternating between Meretz members and new members on the list.

The party's founding meeting is scheduled for December 5. Hundreds of people are expected to attend. However, most are expected to express support for the new body, but not to take an active party.

"Friday is a day for shopping, not for ideology," Labor MK Matan Vilnai said on Friday. "The Labor Party isn't a place for the highest bidder, but rather a place with a vision and with values, and I suggest that people stop following trends."