Meretz party leader and lawmaker Nitzan Horowitz told Haaretz on Sunday that he stands by his statement blaming Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing for the International Criminal Court’s investigation against Israel.
“It’s a failure of Netanyahu, the settlers and the right wing in Israel,” Horowitz said. “I’m saying it because it’s the truth.”
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He also said that Meretz would not withdraw from the election, despite several recent polls predicting that the party may not win enough votes for a single Knesset seat, for the first time in its history.
Horowitz created a political storm over the weekend, telling Channel 13 that “I don’t want Israel to be in these positions, I don’t want Israel to be charged in all kinds of courts. But Israel also has to ask itself what it does to prevent this. I don’t want Israel to come to The Hague, but Israel also has a responsibility.”
“It’s Netanyahu who dragged Israel to The Hague, the right-wing and the settlers,” Horowitz said in the television interview, also blaming a policy of “unbridled settlement.”
Leaders of several right-wing parties denounced Horowitz’s remarks, including Gideon Sa’ar, the head of the New Hope party, a Likud breakaway, who said that Horowitz’s position could deny Meretz a spot in an future governing coalition with New Hope after the election. Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked also ruled out including Meretz in any government that it headed in response to what Horowitz said.
“Meretz is an ideological party, we say what we believe, even if it’s unpopular,” Horowitz said in Sunday’s interview with Haaretz. “We have been warning about this for years, but we were dismissed. I think that just calling the ICC antisemitic isn’t going to help. Israel needs to cooperate with the investigation and present its case, but the more important thing is, we need to work towards a solution with the Palestinians. That’s what will really make things better, also on the international front.”
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Horowitz said that Meretz wouldn’t rule out joining a coalition with right-wing parties after the election if it would lead to Netanyahu’s ouster, but said that the party “won’t support a coalition that would try to annex the settlements.” He expressed a hope that the Biden administration would encourage Israel and the Palestinians to renew direct negotiations.
In several recent polls, including one published on Sunday evening on Channel 12, Meretz fell beneath the 3.25-percent electoral threshold, or the minimum number of votes needed to win a Knesset seat, dealing a major blow to the bloc of parties opposing Netanyahu.
In most polls in which Meretz was predicted not to enter the next Knesset, the result was that the anti-Netanyahu bloc as a whole fell short of reaching a 61 seat majority. This has led to increased pressure on Meretz to withdraw from the election to avoid squandering any left-wing votes, as votes for any party that doesn’t wind up winning any seats do not count in the final tally.
Horowitz told Haaretz that he totally rejects these calls.
“We are a party with institutions and a base of support of close to 200,000 people, we can’t just throw away everything,” he said. “We aren’t even talking about such a scenario, we are working to get our supporters to go out and vote for us. Meretz is fighting for democracy in Israel, democracy is under threat. We are fighting for human rights, we have an economic, social-democratic agenda. And yes, we are committed to the two-state solution and we aren’t afraid to talk about the occupation.”
The full interview with Horowitz will be published on Wednesday, as part of a joint conference on Israel’s national security organized by Haaretz and the Commanders for Israel’s Security organization.