Israel Election: Former Meretz Chief Zehava Galon Calls for Merger With Labor if Reelected

While Labor's Michaeli did not respond to Galon’s call for unification, a public statement issued earlier indicated that she didn't believe such a move was likely or desirable

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Former Meretz Chair Zehava Galon, in 2018.
Former Meretz Chair Zehava Galon, in 2018.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Only hours after announcing her return to politics, former Meretz chair Zehava Galon declared her desire to merge the left-wing party with Merav Michaeli’s Labor, explaining that she was “striving for unification with one goal, and that is to save the bloc, I can already feel the energy.”

“My vision is a wide left with Meretz and Labor together,” Galon, who is running in the upcoming Meretz primary to resume her leadership of the party, told Channel 12 during a televised interview on Tuesday evening.

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“Merav Michaeli is my friend, indeed in the past I thought like her that Meretz would be side by side with Labor, but I think we can talk to each other,” she said. “If I lead Meretz and because we have good communications, we can both maximize and harness the power of the two parties together.”

In further comments carried by Radio 103FM on Wednesday morning, Galon said that she would “make every effort to have a connection that will save the bloc, the first place does not matter. It is the order of the hour, I will make every effort.”

Announcing her candidacy for Meretz chair on Tuesday, Galon said that 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.

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 former Prime Minister Benjamin 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, [kahanist lawmaker Itamar] Ben-Gvir and [far-right Bezalel] Smotrich return to power.

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

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

However, a poll released by Channel 13 News this week showed that 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 found that the remaining seat would go to Labor if Golan were to head Meretz.

Labor Party Chief Merav Michaeli.Credit: Emil Salman

Michaeli, who won a second term as Labor Party leader on Monday, has prioritized preventing such a merger.

While Michaeli did not respond to Galon’s call for unification, a public statement issued earlier in the day indicated that she did not believe such a move was likely or desirable.

“Congratulations to my friend zehavagalon who decided to return to political life. I am sure that Zehava will fight for the return of Meretz to life as an independent and strong political body,” Michaeli tweeted following Galon’s announcement of her candidacy.

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