Tamar Zandberg Heavily Favored as Israel's Left-wing Meretz Party Begins Primary

The 41-year-old is known for being less choosy about possible partners in a coalition government

Tamar Zandberg, left, Mossi Raz and Zehava Galon at the Meretz convention in January 2018.
Meged Gozani

The left-wing Meretz party’s leadership primary takes place Thursday, and though four candidates are running, party insiders say MK Tamar Zandberg is sure to win, adding that anything short of a landslide 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 is considered an atypical Meretz activist, 42-year-old Avi Buskila, whose family with Moroccan roots hails from a moshav known as a Likud stronghold. The other candidates are David Kashani and Ophir Paz.

Voting will begin at 12 P.M. at 130 polling stations around the country. The polls will close at 10 P.M. and the results will be announced later in the evening. For the first time, all 31,000 party members will be eligible to vote. Previously, the party’s central committee elected the leader.

Though Zandberg’s campaign is confident of victory, it is working hard to get people to the polls to ensure a big victory over Buskila. At a campaign rally this week, she vowed that the party under her would double its Knesset representation to 10 seats from five.

Buskila’s campaign staff also insisted their candidate would win, but admittedly by a narrow margin.

Originally nine candidates registered for the primary, including then-party leader Zahava 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.