Not Just to Save It: Five Reasons to Vote Meretz in Israel's Election

Zehava Galon
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A Meretz election campaign banner in the northern city of Nazareth.
A Meretz election campaign banner in the northern city of Nazareth.Credit: AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
Zehava Galon

Over the past few weeks quite a few people have asked me: Zehava, why vote Meretz? But please, no oy gevalt! . They’ve been driving us crazy with that. Give us something that doesn’t reach the volume of “Our town is burning.”

So here it is, gladly. And I mean it – gladly. Without fear, without despair, with the enthusiasm that we have forgotten, the kind that is reserved for people who believe in the ancient Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world; for people who know that the struggle is long and there is no despair in the world.

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Here are five reasons:

Ideology. Meretz is the only party that does not stammer and does not bend when it comes to its ideology. The only party that raises two banners, those of repairing Israeli society and of ending the occupation – the greatest and most fundamental injustice in our society. Do you know of any other party that speaks in the same breath about the occupation, about the need for an economy that is meant for everyone who participates in it and about separating religion from politics? About gay rights? – Shulamit Aloni, who one day will have a town square named after her, is the one who built those rights here.

Stability. Meretz has never been, and will never be, a partner in a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Meretz was a partner in Israel’s last two center-left governments, those of Yitzhak Rabin and of Ehud Barak. Yesh Atid, though today it’s in the opposition, was previously in Netanyahu’s coalition; the Labor Party, which lost something essential with Rabin’s murder, has since crawled into every coalition. Meretz has not disappointed you and will not disappoint you.

Solidarity. The struggle against the occupation is a key principle of Meretz. We don’t apologize for it, on the contrary. Meretz stands by the most oppressed group in the territories under Israeli control, the Palestinians. And I know Jewish society. What do you think will happen to the fight against the occupation if it remains solely in the hands of the Joint List? Our Palestinian allies need the solidarity of Meretz.

Tradition. Democracy needs tradition for stable institutions. Meretz is a 31-year-old party that is the result of the merger of the veteran parties Mapam, Ratz and Shinui. Meretz has a comprehensive platform and its head and slate of candidates are elected by party members. Parties with neither institutions nor platforms (I’m looking at you, Likud) are not parties. At most they are candidate slates. And parties whose chairman is the head for life are not democratic, they’re closer to personality cults. Do you want to strengthen Israeli democracy? Support a democratic party.

Despite the opinion polls. I’ll let you in on a little secret, the kind the professional pollsters don’t know: Even they make mistakes. Sometimes small ones, sometimes big ones, but they are always there. You can’t know what the results of the election will be. No one knows. So vote your conscience. It will never disappoint you. Don’t give in to the temptation to vote “strategically.” It is always wrong.

Israeli democracy is at a low point, there’s no argument about that. But I still believe in the words of the great Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichovsky: “For my soul still yearns for freedom / I’ve not sold it to a calf of gold / For I shall yet have faith in mankind / In its spirit great and bold (translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden).

Leftists, go to the polls with head held high and vote for Meretz. Not to “save it” but because it deserves your votes. Without hesitation. Go and vote your conscience, overcome your fear, and it will move to inhabit the ranks of your opponents. To quote Tchernichovsky again: Rejoice, for I’ll have faith in mankind, for in you I will believe.

Zehava Galon is a former chairwoman of Meretz.

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