Meretz Might Not Make It Into Knesset. This Is What Its Disappearance Would Mean

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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New Labor party leader Merav Michaeli.
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Merav Michaeli’s election as chairwoman of Labor, together with the makeup of her party list, prompted a theory that there’s no longer any real difference between Labor and Meretz.

Michaeli and her No. 3, Emilie Moatti, are perceived as left-wing Tel Aviv women who could just as easily have run with Meretz. Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv’s cause is perceived as more closely identified with the more left-wing party, and Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin has become a more familiar and radical figure than Meretz candidate Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. Omer Bar-Lev and Yair Golan are also perceived as filling equivalent spots on their parties’ lists.

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Under these circumstances, in which the boundaries are supposedly blurred, many among what remains of the left are attracted to what is sparkly and new, and more emotionally thrilling. Michaeli has been able to win the solidarity and support of many women who wish to see her succeed, as well as many men who recognize the symbolic importance of this. Meretz has not been able to create the same kind of excitement. Even its defenders sound like they’re mainly doing so out of a sense of duty.

To clarify the difference, just before the lines seemingly disappear altogether, Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz is trying to highlight Michaeli’s Achilles’ heel: the fight against the occupation. He also maintains that the Jewish-Arab partnership in Meretz is stronger than the seemingly gimmicky one in Labor, which is now trying to hide its Arab candidate.

The latter argument is not convincing. It wasn’t very long ago that Meretz knocked down Issawi Freij to make room for Golan, and it only remembered equality after outside groups threatened to establish a new egalitarian party and Netanyahu became Abu-Yair.

Amid all this noise, one statement by Horowitz last week slashed a real dividing line between him and Michaeli – and this line runs through The Hague: “The settlements and the right are dragging Israel to The Hague,” he tweeted. “The ongoing construction and threats of annexation are embroiling Israel in accusations of war crimes. The settlement obsession must stop and the peace process with the Palestinians must be restarted. Not just to prevent legal proceedings, but to advance the Israeli interest.”

From a left-wing point of view, this does not count as a brave, or even problematic statement. Blaming the settlements for the problem of The Hague is easy, as this is a clear violation of international law. And who is “the right” that is being suspected of war crimes? Hasn’t the center-left been complicit in the work of the occupation all these years? Are IDF commanders and soldiers “the right”? But getting into the question of the IDF’s war crimes is too tricky even for Meretz. Nor is it clear why and how restarting the peace process would prevent international legal proceedings.

But all these questions pale in comparison to Michaeli’s response to the threat of the investigation in The Hague: “The court’s decision is grave and problematic. It assumed authority it doesn’t have and imposed it on Israel in a distorted way. I have full faith in the Israeli justice system and in the IDF. I have warned repeatedly against Netanyahu’s destructive policy.”

Michaeli adopted an exact copy of Netanyahu’s approach, even as she accuses him, despite the logical contradiction, of destructiveness. As the Zionist left finds it increasingly difficult to tiptoe between the raindrops, apparently some (Labor) choose to blame the messenger, while others (Meretz) blame the reality.

If Meretz is not in the next Knesset, there will be no more representation for the Zionist left that recognizes the reality of the occupation and its implications, at a time when the proceedings in The Hague are likely to ramp up the persecution of anyone who dares to argue that there is a basis for investigating suspected war crimes in the territories. This would be the real effect of Meretz’s disappearance.

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