The Israeli Left 'Has No Hunger for Power': General Turned Lawmaker Wants to Reinvent 'Small, Purist' Meretz

Yair Golan vows to 'silence and suppress' voices pushing to turn his party in a Jewish-Arab alliance: 'This could be the Israeli left’s big opportunity'

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Golan at the anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem, August 2020
Golan at the anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem, August 2020Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

As Israel's lawmakers pass the preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset, putting Israel on track for another election, one politician sees an opportunity for Meretz, his small, struggling left wing party, to lure disappointed voters from Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan.

MK Yair Golan sees this potential election, what would be Israel's fourth in two years, as a chance to reinvigorate Israel's defeated left, by harnessing the power of the anti-Netanyahu protests which have been taking place since July this year.

“This could be the Israeli left’s big opportunity,” Golan, a former IDF deputy chief, asserted.

“There’s room for a leftist Zionist party between Yesh Atid and the Joint List. I’ve discerned stagnation in our bloc and I plan to work hard to extract us from it. We need to be much stronger and more on the ball, so that if there are other people who want to join, they’ll come to us for negotiations with us in a position of power.”

I asked whether he intends to demand that the party hold a leadership contest and run against Horowitz. He answered that if Knesset elections are held in March, “it seems to me it wouldn’t be fair to run. If the elections are deferred until June, the picture would be different.”

And when does he think they will take place? “In June,” Golan replied. But regardless of when it happens, he added, “if a primary is held, I’ll run for the leadership.”

On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that Meretz had conducted a survey which showed that less than one percent of center-left voters support a Jewish-Arab ticket. Given that, the chances of such a ticket being formed seem extremely slim.

Meretz insists on remaining a small, separatist, purist party. It has no energy, no hunger for power or for being part of the government. It has forces that are trying to drag it in the direction of a Jewish-Arab party. These forces must be quieted, silenced and suppressed. That’s what I’ll do with all my might in the coming months.”

With these words – half promise, half threat – Meretz MK Yair Golan launched his campaign for the upcoming election. Golan, who is third on the party’s ticket (after Nitzan Horowitz and Tamar Zandberg), was primarily targeting senior figures like Zandberg and former MK Mossi Raz. A “small, vocal faction,” as he put it.

In his view, they and others are preventing Meretz from becoming the address for all the people disappointed with the Kahol Lavan and Labor parties who are seeking a new political home for the oft-disappointed “Zionist left.”

Did he meant people like Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai? “Yes,” he answered. “We must also bring in people from the protest movements who have political aspirations and abilities,” he added, referring to the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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