Former Meretz Leader Zehava Galon Announces Primary Run Ahead of Israel Election

Galon, who headed the left-wing Meretz party for a six-year stint in the past, will run against Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan in the August primary

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Zehava Galon. " I bear responsibility for the fate of Meretz, which is fluctuating around the electoral threshold."
Zehava Galon. " I bear responsibility for the fate of Meretz, which is fluctuating around the electoral threshold."Credit: תומר אפלבאום
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Zehava Galon, the former leader of the left-wing Meretz party, announced on Tuesday that she will run in the upcoming primary to resume her leadership of the party, saying she "bears responsibility for the fate of Meretz, which is fluctuating around the electoral threshold."

The primary, set to be held for Meretz members on August 23, will determine both the party leader and its slate of candidates for the November 1 general Knesset election. The only other announced party-leader candidate is Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan, a former deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

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In a letter addressing the members of the Zulat Institute for Human Rights which she heads, Galon wrote that while it wasn’t easy for her to decide to run, she is also responsible for “the fate of the Israeli-democratic bloc and its partnership with the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

Galon added that she would not have been able to look at herself in the mirror if due to her preference to stay at Zulat, she would help pave the way for Netanyahu’s reelection. She said she believes that Meretz under her leadership could have significant power and bring back the base that abandoned it. "I cannot stand by and let the theocratic bloc led by Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich return to power.

Yair Golan.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Fellow Meretz member Mossi Raz wrote on Twitter that he supports Galon “with all my heart,” adding that “Galon is loyal to values, honest, eloquent and experienced. She has doubled Meretz’s power in the past and I believe she can strengthen it again.”

Galon meet with caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid following her announcement on Tuesday and expressed her commitment to the "change bloc" led by Lapid going into elections.

Last week Meretz’s current leader, Nitzan Horowitz, announced that he would run for a spot on the party’s Knesset slate but would not seek another term as its leader.

Meretz chair Nitzan HorowitzCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Just prior to Galon's 2018 resignation after her prior stint as party leader, she ranked fourth – with only 11 percent support – among Meretz members as to their preference for party leadership. Galon headed the party from 2012 to 2018.

But in a poll this week of the general Israeli public regarding the upcoming November election, Meretz was projected to win five seats under Galon’s leadership, as compared with four if Yair Golan were to head the party. The survey, reported by Israel's Channel 13, found that the remaining seat would go to the Labor Party if Golan were to head Meretz.

Last week the environment minister, Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg, announced that she would not seek a spot on the Meretz slate in the next Knesset but would remain as environment minister until a new government is installed. Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freige, also of Meretz, likewise announced he would not run in November, but he said he would campaign on the party’s behalf in the Arab community.

Earlier this month Freige called on Galon to return to the job of party leader. "She’s the only one who can unite the ranks inside Meretz and ensure that Meretz remains alive and kicking,” Freige said.

The Labor party is being called upon to merge with Meretz for the November election, as it has done in the past. But Labor's newly reelected leader, Merav Michaeli, has prioritized preventing such a merger.

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