Zionist Camp’s Ambiguity Leaves Meretz a Chance to Shake Its Stupor

Labor-Hatnuah is maintaining an Israeli statesmanship-like stance, which unfortunately includes utter obeisance to the Moloch of security.

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Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, left, and MK Ilan Gilon listen to the exit polls, January 22, 2013.
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, left, and MK Ilan Gilon listen to the exit polls, January 22, 2013. Credit: Nir Keidar
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

This week Meretz celebrated its primary, which it said produced impressive candidates both new and veteran. “Ten seats,” party chief Zahava Gal-On declared — an impressive showing in the upcoming election. But even she knows that Israel’s only Jewish leftist Zionist party is in trouble.

The problem doesn’t stem from whether Meretz is a closed members-only club, as Raviv Drucker claimed this week. It stems from the party’s assimilation, albeit unofficial, into Zionist Camp.

Even if Meretz didn’t heed calls by Uri Avnery and others to blend into a new and bolstered variation of the Labor Party, it’s not doing enough to distinguish itself from that party. The nonaggression pact — if one exists — between Meretz and Labor has become a danger to the existence of Meretz, which finds itself hovering near the electoral threshold.

Talk about Israel’s only Jewish leftist Zionist party and 10 seats isn’t a campaign or strategy. Meretz must declare itself an alternative not only to the Netanyahu government — Labor’s Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni are doing pretty well with that — but also an alternative to Zionist Camp. This is especially the case considering Labor-Hatnuah’s intentionally ambiguous platform that lacks concrete steps except for launching peace negotiations (which in Israel today is considered an expression of extreme leftism).

The attack in Syria that reignited tensions in the north could have been an excellent opportunity to recreate the resolute courage that once typified Meretz. But during recent military operations it has bit its lip too hard and hasn’t come out clearly against Israel's aggression and its contribution to the repeated rounds of pointless violence.

How is it that Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant, flesh of the flesh of Israel’s military oligarchy, dared to challenge the timing of the attack (even if he backtracked under pressure from the national hit parade), while Meretz’s people remained silent?

When Zionist Camp’s new acquisition Amos Yadlin tells TV news viewers he has no doubt that the military, which of course he knows and admires, carried out this operation without any political pressure, he opens a window of opportunity, even unintentionally, for Meretz to win back its relevance to its traditional voters.

The cost — firing up hatred for leftists — isn’t too high; most Israelis are already right-wing. Meretz shouldn’t care about the consensus but rather the leftists who have moved for pragmatic reasons to the modern and successful version of Mapai out of their desire to replace the eternal government of the right.

Zionist Camp, which is trying to appeal to this consensus, is maintaining an Israeli statesmanship-like stance, which unfortunately includes utter obeisance to the Moloch of security. Voters on the left are sensitive to this mainly during wartime or violent Israeli operations that threaten to sweep the region into another war.

Suddenly these voters fear they’re not in the right place, that pragmatic surrender is too great. Why doesn’t Meretz take advantage of this?

If I were the Meretz strategist, I’d declare an emergency that requires extreme action. It’s time to break left with all one’s might and present an alternative that will serve the leftist conscience that has a hard time voting for people who supported the war or lesser military initiatives.

I would tell the members of Meretz: Don’t be like the Kahlons, Herzogs or Livnis. Be like staunch right-winger Naftali Bennett. Because when it comes down to it, the reason for Meretz’s existence at the moment can be summarized in one slogan: Meretz or Bennett.

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