Tamar Zandberg Announces Candidacy for Leadership of Israel's Left-wing Meretz Party

The 41-year-old veteran of progressive politics says its time for Israel's left to 'fight back'

Tamar Zandberg, an MK in Meretz, at an undated Knesset hearing.
Michal Fattal

Knesset member Tamar Zandberg, 41, announced her candidacy for the leadership of Meretz on Thursday.

Meretz, a small left-wing party that has long considered itself a watchdog for progressive values, will hold its primary for the chairmanship in March, after a fierce internal battle over whether or not to change the rules of how the party elects its leadership and candidates for Knesset.  

The time has come to say things as clearly as possible: Meretz needs a new beginning, a new spirit and new leadership, said Zandberg in announcing her candidacy. After many years in which the right turned the left into a punching bag, the time has come for us to raise our heads up and fight back.  

Zandberg is running against three other candidates: Zehava Galon, the current chairwoman of Meretz, MK Ilan Gilon, and Avi Dabush, who was number seven on the Meretz slate in the last Knesset election. Meretz has five seats in the present Knesset.

In October Galon took the unusual step of resigning from her Knesset seat to wage the battle over how Meretz conducts its primaries. Galon sought to introduce a precedent-setting system in Israel which would, for the first time, allow open primaries, in which any Israeli could sign up and vote for party leadership and Knesset candidates.  In the previous system only the partys central committee could participate in voting.

In a compromise deal it was decided that all party members would be allowed to vote on the leadership primary on March 22, if they were registered as members as of mid-February. Gilon and Galon fought over the change. Gilon wanted to keep the old system. In the end they reached the compromise, with the help and agreement of Zandberg.

Zandbergs supporters are thought to hold the balance of power in the party between Galon and Gilons camps, and they helped pave the way for the recent compromise. 

Zandberg has been a MK since 2014 and is the chairwoman of the Knessets committee on drug abuse. 

Two polls conducted in November show Meretz had support to increase its number of Knesset seats from five to seven or eight. But this would come at the expense of the Zionist Union, which the polls showed as losing about seven of its 24 Knesset seats. Yair Lapids Yesh Atid party grew stronger in both polls.

Galon has been chairwoman of Meretz since 2012.