Analysis

After Left-wing Party Head Lied, She Should Ask Whether She's Worthy of Office

Tamar Zandberg's lack of forthrightness about her reviled campaign adviser reveals a lack of adherence to the party's moral foundation and values

Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg votes in the party's primary, March 22, 2018.
\ Ilan Assayag

MK Tamar Zandberg did not come to Meretz with a clear identity in terms of ideology and values, like previous Meretz leaders Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid and Zahava Galon. She is the cool, young Tel Avivian who hopped from the Tel Aviv City Council to parliament, and was identified mainly with veganism and the campaign to legalize marijuana. It might be too much to expect her to have values – a somewhat archaic term today – but even pragmatism should have its limits. For example, in telling the truth.

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For example, exercising a moral foundation. For example, a commitment to the tradition, roots and DNA. of a party whose leaders, as irritating and controversial as they were, were never suspected of outright cynicism like that of their colleagues in the big parties.

Zandberg – as was revealed last night by Amit Segal on Israel News Corporation news – was assisted by media consultant Moshe Klughaft in her successful bid for the Meretz top office. Klughaft is identified with unbridled incitement against the left wing and human rights groups over the past decade. There’s not exactly a statue to him in the temple of the left.

For obvious reasons Zandberg did not bother letting her voters or the media know that she was getting help from Klughaft. When journalists who heard the rumor called her about it, she and her people categorically denied it. We believed her. Of course we did, she’s “from Meretz.”

The handwriting was on the wall in Klughaftian font. The slogan was “no apologizing,” and the candidate stated herself she wants to model the party's influence on that of Education Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of Habayit Hayehudi. In her post—victory remarks she said: “Meretz voters enlist in the IDF in greater numbers than those of Habayit Hayehudi. We’ll seek the education and the justice portfolios” (ministries currently held by Habayit Hayehudi). Other than dressing up as a settler and wandering around the settlement of Yitzhar – there’s no trick in Klughaft’s playbook that she didn’t use.

>> Tamar Zandberg faces a daunting challenge | Analysis >>

During the campaign some people reported to Galon – then still in the running for chairwoman – that Klughaft was working on Zandberg’s campaign and he was asking people to write articles against Galon on social media and the newspapers. Galon couldn’t believe it. There are some things we don’t do, she said to those who spoke to her about the matter. Perhaps Zandberg’s willingness to sit in the same cabinet with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Israel Beiteinu, without conditions at that, should have sounded a warning bell.

The lying continued Saturday night after the gates of hell opened. Consultation with “Klugie” as he is known, was “on his initiative,” and the advice he gave stemmed from experience in the “generational revolution” in which he led Habayit Hayehudi, Zandberg claimed. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that contact between them was ongoing and systematic, not quasi-coincidental.

And anyhow, if it was all innocent, why did Zandberg and her people so lie so openly, with such energy, to people who asked them about it? 
Moreover, this might be a breach of the party funding law. This matter needs to be looked into from a legal point of view. If indeed Klughaft volunteered his consulting services, as Zandberg claimed, than this could be considered an illegal contribution. If on the other hand, she employed him and paid him, as required for someone who is not known as a philanthropist, then the lie was perpetrated on the voters, the public and the media. That doesn’t make it any less egregious. 

Zandberg won with 71 percent of the vote. Obviously, without Klughaft’s wisdom, she might have gotten 60 percent, maybe 58 percent. She should now consider whether she is worthy of the office, and especially if the office is worthy of her.