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What Reason Is There to Rule Out Meretz?

Raviv Drucker
Raviv Drucker
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Former Meretz leader Zehava Galon, last month in Tel Aviv.
Former Meretz leader Zehava Galon, last month in Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Raviv Drucker
Raviv Drucker

The final 24 hours of the last coalition negotiations were crazy. They had to submit the coalition agreements to the Knesset speaker, but problems popped up. Yamina had a hard time living with the phrases “climate” and “gender equality.” Meretz bent and sought to change the title “eternal capital” appended to the word “Jerusalem.” In the end, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid only signed on the last page of the agreement on the morning of the deadline.

About a year later, at the height of the Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi crisis, the idea arose that the rebellious Knesset member from Meretz be moved over to the United Arab List, which would have five members. Lapid was interested. UAL leader Mansour Abbas agreed. When they turned to Meretz, an objection was raised. What about the lawmaker’s party allocation?

Yes, Meretz’s DNA is sometimes petty, but if there is something that the government of change proved, it’s that Meretz is capable of functioning as a legitimate coalition party. Meretz did not shake up the coalition, neither over the citizenship law, which contradicts its ideology 100 percent, nor when tenders were issued for construction in the West Bank. Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg and their colleagues knew how to balance their priorities. When a mob shows up at your building threatening to burn it down with Molotov cocktails, it’s not the time to argue over the residents’ property rights.

In this regard, Meretz doesn’t deserve the harsh criticism it has received. It had the best intentions when it guaranteed a slot for Rinawie Zoabi. They were trying to advance the status of Arab women; they just picked the wrong woman. Rinawie Zoabi misled many good people. Even Abbas, who possesses boundless patience, lost it in the coalition’s final days and shouted at her, “Who do you think you are?” That didn’t deter her from asking him after the coalition collapsed if, after all, she might be able to receive a guaranteed spot on his list.

If the Netanyahu bloc doesn’t get 61 seats, the polls leave very little room for an alternate coalition. There is the very unlikely scenario that a group of disgruntled Likud members could break off. The odds of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party joining the “just not Bibi” coalition are also very low. It’s not easy at all with Lapid and Meretz around.

Another option is that Netanyahu, lacking 61 seats, might speed up talks about a plea bargain. In that instance, the state prosecutor would likely be more open to the idea. The fear that Netanyahu would form a government that got rid of anyone who ever walked past the prosecutor’s offices in East Jerusalem softened the position there regarding a possible plea deal.

And still, the political clock and the legal clock are moving at different speeds. Signing a plea bargain that removes Netanyahu from the political stage during coalition negotiations is nearly impossible. The much more likely scenario is a rotating unity government, only that this time Netanyahu would be second in the rotation. Lapid and Gantz agreed to this in the past. Today they are opposed. At this moment, Netanyahu is not interested either. Yet it is very likely that the numbers will force them to prefer this option over others. Would Meretz be a candidate for such a government? Netanyahu indeed will want Religious Zionism. What reason is there to rule out Meretz?

The left’s criticism of Meretz comes from the opposite direction. They assert that the party lost its identity in the name of its members’ desire to drive out Bibi and prove they are capable of ruling. Well, if its identity includes untenable positions like not sitting with Avigdor Lieberman in the same coalition, then it’s just as well these positions got lost. Even Zehava Galon agreed to climb down from this tree.

Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky are among the few people still talking about the struggle against the occupation. That’s not much, but given Israel’s reality, when Yesh Atid doesn’t care and Labor is busy being enamored of itself and its chairwoman, it’s certainly enough to justify Meretz’s existence.

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