Meretz’s fluctuation around the electoral threshold is not unique to this election, but according to the most recent polls, it seems that the fear that the party will fail to cross it is greater this time around.
This is because Labor’s new slate apparently offers a more exciting alternative to some of Meretz’s voters, as well as to voters focusing on replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by voting for center-right parties. Then there are those who prefer to strengthen the Arab minority by voting for the Joint List rather than for Meretz. And Kahol Lavan is still holding together votes that could add up to a few Knesset seats.
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As a result, Meretz, which cannot fire up its veteran voters enough, risks being wiped out of the Knesset.
Regardless of whether its campaign and the members on its roster are exciting or not, Meretz has an important historic role in Israel’s parliamentary structure, which is much larger than the sum of its parts. When there is no real chance for a left-wing government, there’s a need for at least an opposition that represents the left’s positions against the occupation in the Palestinian Territories, and deals with its consequences.
These are positions that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Labor leader Merav Michaeli are incapable of expressing.
A good example for this is the political system’s responses to the threats of investigations into allegations of war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Only Meretz and the Joint List have addressed Israel’s role in these events, on various levels, while all the rest, including Michaeli, repeated Netanyahu’s response: that the court would be exceeding its jurisdiction in such an investigation.
Meretz has a major role in raising a clear and loud voice against the occupation and the settlements, precisely because it’s still basically a Zionist party. Even without the personal differences between Michaeli, Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz and the opinions of the party members on rest of their rosters, there’s a fundamental difference in the ideas and institutions they represent and in their ability to maneuver in the ever-narrowing sphere of public discourse.
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If Meretz isn’t in the Knesset, only the Joint List will represent the debate on the occupation and protecting the organizations that fight against it. But although various parties are now courting the Joint List’s voters, the party is subjected to a delegitimization campaign against its positions on government affairs. In this situation, without Meretz, the Zionist left’s voice in the Knesset will be silenced.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.