Israel's Left-wing Meretz Party to Keep Chairman, Mulls Future of Merger

Party source predicts it will join in Democratic Union again to get bigger campaign budget

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Stav Shaffir (L), Nitzan Horowitz, and Yair Golan, August 2019.
Stav Shaffir (L), Nitzan Horowitz, and Yair Golan, August 2019.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Nitzan Horowitz will lead the same slate of party candidates in the March election that he led in the September election, following the Meretz leadership’s decision Monday to cancel its primaries.

However, a Meretz team is examining whether primaries should be held if the party runs again on a joint list with the Green Movement, headed by Stav Shaffir, and the Israel Democratic Party, headed by Yair Golan. In the September election, the three factions teamed up to form the Democratic Union.

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A party source forecast that the alliance with Shaffir and Golan will continue, primarily because it will help Meretz increase its campaign budgets significantly. “The Meretz budget for funding the election is about 7 million shekels ($2 million). We are allowed to deviate by 2 to 3 million. How is it possible to run an election campaign with such sums? Stav Shaffir and Yair Golan each bring 2.3 million shekels with them from the election campaign budget. That already gives us almost 15 million shekels. You have to remember that Meretz has debts of about 9 million shekels, which we are supposed to cover with a loan we took from the government.”

Former Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg has decided not to run again for party chairwoman, after considering the idea in recent days. The party convention is supposed to confirm the decision next Sunday.

Horowitz, Zandberg and former Meretz MK Mossi Raz will compose the Meretz negotiating team in advance of possible mergers. Senior party members called this morning to reexamine the alliance with the Green Movement and the Israel Democratic Party. A Meretz source said, “It’s not at all certain that there is electoral justification for slotting Shaffir and Golan in the second and third spots. When we arranged the merger in the previous round, the prominent name was Ehud Barak. He made the campaign. Now Barak isn’t in the picture. We have to see what Golan is bringing now and what added value Shaffir brings.”

Shaffir herself is working to revive the Democratic Camp, and in recent days has been calling for open primaries for the leadership of the camp and the composition of its Knesset slate. She is warning against Meretz’s attempts to renounce the merger.

“Politicians who continue to behave like politicos who try all day long to disband camps and to make deals in closed rooms won’t receive a mandate from the public. That’s the reason why the left was weakened in the past and those are the people who threaten to finish it off.” She went on to say, “Our public deserves to decide in a quick and open primary who will represent it in the Knesset. We established the Democratic Camp and we deserve a democratic leadership like that all over the world.”

In merger negotiations, Meretz intends to emphasize that a new slate must take leftist positions on peace, social justice, civic equality and Arab-Jewish partnership.

At the same time, Meretz decided to appoint Horowitz, Zandberg and former MK Esawi Freige to head the team running the election campaign.

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