The Results Are In: Israel's Left-wing Meretz Party Has Chosen a New Leader

The 41-year-old Tamar Zandberg may be less choosy about forming a center-left government

Tamar Zandberg, after winning the race
מגד גוזני

The left-wing Meretz party has elected a new leader, with MK Tamar Zandberg carrying more than 70 percent of the vote in the party's leadership primary on Thursday.

Ahead of the results, and even though four candidates were running, party insiders said that anything short of a big victory would be “an earthquake.”

Zandberg, 41, has said she would not rule out joining a left-center government even if Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a hard-liner against the Palestinians, were a member.

Her toughest opponent was considered an atypical contender for the Meretz crown, 42-year-old Avi Buskila, whose family with Moroccan roots hails from a moshav known as a Likud stronghold. The other candidates were David Kashani and Ophir Paz.

For the first time, all 31,000 party members were eligible to vote. Previously, the party’s central committee elected the leader.

At a campaign rally this week, Zandberg vowed that the party under her would double its Knesset representation to 10 seats from five.

Originally nine candidates registered for the primary, including then-party leader Zehava Galon and MK Ilan Gilon. But a month ago, both withdrew. “From my conversations with members all over the country in recent weeks, I understood that they want a new leadership,” Galon said at the time.

In January, the party’s convention voted to choose both its leader and Knesset slate through primaries rather leaving these tasks to the central committee. The primary for the Knesset slate will take place at a later date.