Meretz Leader, Cautiously Optimistic, Courts Votes in Tel Aviv

Zehava Galon tells voters that if Meretz supporters vote Zionist Union, 'and Meretz disappears, God forbid, there is no upset.'

Nir Keidar

Meretz chairman Zehava Galon chose to spend Israel's Election Day in central Tel Aviv, an area considered the party’s home court. Between cafes near Habima Square to Rothschild Boulevard, Galon tried to convince left-leaning voters to choose Meretz.

Many in the party fear that those who had voted Meretz in the past would prefer to give their vote to Zionist Union in an effort to throw the right out of power, undermining the party in the process. Galon expressed “cautious optimism,” as she put it, but the decision to try to persuade Tel Avivians to vote Meretz was evidence of the party leader's concern.

“I’m not giving up on anyone’s vote,” Galon said. “We are charging after every vote and not taking anything for granted. In a different type of election I wouldn’t be here specifically, but every other person is debating between Meretz and Zionist Union, even on the boulevard.”

Those sitting in the cafes responded with calls of “We love you, Zehava,” and “There’s no left without Meretz,” but except for a few people who asked Galon to pose for selfies, no one seemed overly excited about the election.

“You want a cup of lemonade, on me?” asked Liam, a seventh grader trying to make enough money selling lemonade to buy the new Apple watch. Galon refused the offer, but was photographed with Liam and his friend for a short video in which they said “Left is Meretz.”

The party members’ last efforts at persuasion came amid fear that the party was at the brink of falling below the electoral threshold.

After Galon voted near her home in Petah Tikva, she said, “Meretz voters know that it will either be a Knesset without Meretz, or a government with Meretz, and I have the feeling that we are moving toward a government with Meretz.”

Galon stressed that for that to happen, “All Meretz voters who wanted to vote for Zionist Union should vote Meretz; we will be big and strong, and only thus will [Zionist Union chairman Isaac] Herzog be prime minister. Because if they don’t vote Meretz, and Meretz disappears, God forbid, there is no upset.”

Asked if she thought it’s possible that extreme right winger Baruch Marzel, a candidate on Eli Yishai’s Yahad ticket, would be in the next Knesset, while Meretz would not, Galon replied, “I could just die from such a thought, but I don’t think that will happen. It’s a tough competition between who I don’t want to make it [over the threshold] – Yahad or [Avigdor] Lieberman,” referring to the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu.