Jew, Arab in Joint Meretz Leadership Bid; Labor Chairman Quits Political Life

Meretz party's constitution will need to be amended for co-chairmen run ■ Labor lawmaker Itzik Shmuli announces bid to lead Labor party

MK Esawi Freige and former MK Mossi Raz at a Meretz conference in Herzliya, June 12, 2019.

Meretz’s leadership battle took an interesting turn on Wednesday as MK Esawi Freige and former MK Mossi Raz announced that they would run together for the party’s chairmanship. Meeting with a group of Jewish and Arab Meretz activists, the two said they wanted to give the party a joint Jewish-Arab leadership.

The joint candidacy will require a change to the party’s constitution to allow two people to run together for chairman. The party leadership primary is scheduled for June 27, and two weeks later there will be elections for the party Knesset slate.

>> Read more: Israeli Labor lawmaker quits, left-wing Meretz party eyes primary ahead of new election ■ Time to unite the left | Editorial

“The Israeli left needs hope in the form of a true Jewish-Arab partnership, said Freige. “The Arab public showed confidence in Meretz during the last election and now we must enhance the partnership in the form of a strong and influential Arab-Jewish left.”

Raz added, “Meretz, with us at the helm, will be good news for Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens. There’s a large public that’s eager for this partnership, a public that could strengthen Meretz and the entire Israeli left.”

Earlier this week former MK Nitzan Horowitz announced that he would contend for the Meretz leadership.

Also on Wednesday, Labor MK Itzik Shmuli announced he would be running for the Labor chairmanship. “It’s time to take the reins in hand,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “This is our time to restore the faith that many lost along the way, to strengthen the values we grew up with, to fashion new partnerships and together to breach the borders of the camp to increase the chance for change for the country.”

In addition, Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay announced he was not going to run in the upcoming party primaries. “The party is in a great crisis, and I’m not evading responsibility,” he said. The previous day he announced he would not run again for the Labor chairmanship.

According to Gabbay, he had decided long ago not to run for the party’s chairmanship, but had deliberated over whether to stay on the Knesset slate. “I decided to go with my heart and my truth … and to remove myself from the slate for the next Knesset, whether the decision is to freeze the slate or to hold primaries for the slate.”

One of Labor’s problems, he said is the “former chairmen who remained on the ticket. Outside of politics, when a CEO leaves he steps aside and moves on, and doesn’t become subordinate to someone who had been under him. There were four former [party] chairmen under me. It’s a phenomenon that naturally leads to interpersonal problems and I don’t want to be a continuation of that phenomenon.”

He also said that a huge portion of Israelis believe in Labor’s path, but don’t vote Labor because of the internal rivalries and lack of trust among its leaders. “Without changing this culture there’s no way to succeed,” Gabbay said.

“I have no plans going forward,” he added. “I don’t know how and what I will do for the public but my commitment remains.”

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled Wednesday that Labor must conduct a referendum among its 60,000 registered members on whether to hold primaries for the party leadership and Knesset ticket, or to leave these decisions to the 3,000-member party convention.