Israel’s Left-wing Meretz Party Rejects Push for Greater Arab Representation: 'It's Not Worth It'

Poll finds that only 0.7 percent of center-left voters were certain they would vote for a joint Jewish-Arab party

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Voting at a Meretz conference, Tel Aviv, January 14, 2020.
Voting at a Meretz conference, Tel Aviv, January 14, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Senior officials from Israel's left-wing Meretz party have rejected an initiative to merge with Arab parties ahead of a potential election, after a public opinion poll commissioned by the party showed the move could alienate voters.

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“Such a move is not feasible, that’s the truth,” said a senior party figure who saw the data. “It’s not worth the effort." 

The internal poll found that only 0.7 percent of center-left voters were certain they would vote for a Jewish-Arab party. Nearly 22 percent said they would possibly vote for a diverse party, if both national groups have equal representation and the party’s positions were “somewhere between Yesh Atid and the Joint List.” 

One party source estimated that only 3,000-4,000 voters would switch their support from the Joint List – a four-party Arab-majority alliance – to Meretz if it becomes a Jewish-Arab party, a figure party officials fear isn't high enough to constitute a dramatic change in policy.

"One can draw Arab voters to Meretz, but they aren’t necessarily seeking a Jewish-Arab party," the official said. "On the other hand, Jewish voters are likely to avoid a joint Jewish-Arab list, as they define themselves as left-wing Zionists." 

Last month, Meretz leaders held a discussion about the party contending in the next general election as a “Jewish-Arab partnership” that would include a significant number of reserved spots for Arab candidates on the party’s ticket. The idea’s backers believe it would enable the party to recruit voters in the Arab community and renew interest among those who defected to Kahol Lavan or the Joint List in the last rounds of elections.

The discussion was held following an article published in Haaretz by former leftwing MKs calling themselves “the alliance,” which called to establish a Jewish-Arab list for the next election.

Meretz secretary-general Tomer Reznik also spoke out against the merge, saying "the significance of creating a Jewish-Arab political movement involves the connection of movements and organizations, not just the creation of a joint party."

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