Analysis

Deposed Leader of Israel's Left-wing Party Opened Gate for Her Own Executioners

If Zehava Galon's plan had worked, Meretz would have looked completely different in the next elections. But the new members she brought into her party wanted new blood at the top

Meretz's resigned leader, longtime politician Zehava Galon.
Michal Fattal

Tamar Zandberg’s path to the leadership of the left-wing Meretz party looks clear, now that Zehava Galon and Ilan Gilon have pulled out of the race.

Oh, the irony. When Galon forced the party to open the ranks of the reawakening leftist party, Zandberg was among those who objected. The change frightened her. Later, she flipped and supported it. And so, Galon’s executioners – 12,000 new members – poured through the gate she had opened. They came to complete the change she initiated, but at her expense.

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Galon, as is her custom, didn’t wrap her decision in hackneyed slogans of “having accomplished what she came for” and wanting to spend more time with the family. She had energy, she still had a hunger for power. She wanted to be elected a third time, buoyed by the new spirit she had ushered in, and was planning to set off an earthquake in the left wing’s ranks – pulling MKs from floundering, depressing Labor and bringing them to Meretz, together with other attractive figures from outside.

If her plan had worked, Meretz would have looked completely different in the next elections. But the collective yearning for a new leadership, similar to the process Labor went through last July, was so intense, especially in the new blood that flowed into the party, that Galon had no choice but to draw the obvious conclusion. She conceded her impending defeat and abandoned the battlefield.

“I’m not a Shi’ite suicide bomber,” she said shortly after announcing her exit. In recent weeks Galon had met hundreds of party members. Many of them, especially the new ones, supported Zandberg’s position, which doesn’t automatically rule out joining Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu as future coalition partners. Galon was saddened to see the values she stood for taking second place to pragmatism and the wish to be part of the ruling coalition. It was another sign of the new spirit signaling her to go.

Galon is an acquired taste. She’s irritating, antagonizing, extreme, anti-establishment. She’s called “shrill” and “didactic.” But she’s honest and courageous, a gifted parliamentarian, and a goose that lays golden eggs.

In two election campaigns she delivered the goods. In 2013, Meretz under her leadership won six Knesset seats. In 2015, when the Zionist Union wanted to cannibalize its younger sibling, Galon brought in five Knesset seats with her own talents. Her predecessor, Haim Oron, who was much more popular among the general public, managed only three seats in the 2009 elections.

Zandberg, the leading contender, has big shoes to fill. It’s easy to promise 10 Knesset seats, but very hard to bring even five.

Full column in Friday’s Haaretz.