Licking Its Wounds, Meretz Looks for Culprits to Blame for Poor Showing

Having gone to bed Monday night with four Knesset seats only to wake up yesterday with three, Meretz is licking its wounds and searching for someone to blame.

Some Meretz members denounced the failed strategy that paired them with the New Movement. Others said they needed to join Labor and create a new, larger left wing movement.

Even though some party members are still counting on the uncounted votes of soldiers, it is clear the brunt of the loss is being borne by MK Zahava Gal-On, who was fourth on the party list. Gal-On said she "is hurt on a personal level and on a political level."

Meretz has already found many culprits: the war in Gaza; the confused election campaign; Kadima's election campaign, which drew many Meretz supporters to vote Livni; and the decision by party head MK Haim Oron to link up with the New Movement.

"I have no intention to resign. I do not surrender, because I consider taking responsibility staying on and carrying the heavy burden, and if I have colleagues who would like to lead in the future, I have no problem with that," Oron told Haaretz yesterday.

Oron talked with Kadima head Tzipi Livni yesterday and told her that "Meretz paid the price for the Kadima campaign - the spin worked."

For months, Oron had worked to build the partnership with the New Movement, managing to convince party members that this would bring the party new impetus and votes.

"Jumas [Oron's nickname] will not stay for another term. Even if no one wants to talk about this at this time, and even if there might be more reasons for this failure, it is clear that Jumas and what he represents has no place in Meretz anymore," said a party member yesterday.

One candidate who did not make it into the Knesset, Musi Raz, was against linking up with the New Movement from the start. "In retrospect we can say this [link] caused us damage. It pushed us away from the Arab voters and hurt us among women," Raz said.

In order to include New Movement members on Meretz's slate, women and Arab candidates were pushed further down the list.

"I was not optimistic, but I did not think we would get only three seats," Raz said yesterday. He thinks Meretz should break away from the New Movement "and try to create a joint movement with Labor."

MK Avshalom Vilan called for such an alliance three years ago. He will not be returning to the Knesset, either. "Israeli society is moving to the right and Meretz needs to be part of a new, large alternative force. Meretz and Labor need to get their act together in the opposition, and create one large framework that would incorporate the small Green parties, whose voters come from our [ideological] camp. I guess that until you are slapped in the face you do not really take any action, and now we need to rebuild from our foundation," Vilan told Haaretz yesterday.

Meretz Youth head Uri Zachi backed the idea, saying yesterday, "Meretz is now facing an existential threat and we cannot continue with our current methods. We need to make revolutionary changes."

Oron is not opposed to linking up with Labor. "The entire left has suffered a major blow. We need to create a broad framework, bigger than Meretz and its three seats, or Labor and its 13 seats. We need to create a different public standing."