Tamar Zandberg, the new Meretz party chairwoman who was elected just last Thursday, began her term of office in a way that casts a heavy cloud over her future and her suitability for the job. People who wish Meretz and the entire left well are precisely the ones who should be very troubled by the scandal embroiling this politician, who pretended to be bringing a new, fresh spirit to the left and to Israeli politics in general.
Over the weekend, Israel Television News reported that during her primary campaign for Meretz’s leadership, Zandberg regularly consulted political strategist Moshe Klughaft. Earlier, in response to questions from many reporters, Zandberg lied by denying her connection with Klughaft.
Klughaft is no ordinary political consultant. In his years of work, he has brought the art of slinging mud, personal smears, incitement and lies to heights previously unknown in Israeli politics. And as if this weren’t bad enough from Meretz’s standpoint, Klughaft employed his base, contemptible tactics primarily against the political camp that Zandberg presumes to lead.
As a consultant to Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi party, Klughaft was responsible for some of the most inflammatory campaigns ever waged against the peace camp and human rights in Israel. Klughaft devised posters that depicted New Israel Fund president Naomi Chazan, a former Meretz Knesset member, with a horn on her head. He dreamed up the equating of Labor MK Yossi Yonah with Hamas. And he was behind the Im Tirztu organization’s campaign calling left-wing activists “moles.”
Klughaft embodies the deterioration of Israel’s politics and public debate to benighted, contemptible levels. Yet it was the Habayit Hayehudi campaign and its like that Zandberg described in her apology on Sunday as “a very successful campaign.”
The candidate to lead Meretz joined up with Klughaft and what he represents. She believed in his path and his methods, since otherwise she surely wouldn’t have consulted him. This alone is enough to cause fright over the idea that she will from now on lead the left-wing Zionist party.
But then, Zandberg added insult to injury by also lying to the media, and through it to the public, by denying her ongoing connection with Klughaft. She apparently understood that she had done something unacceptable and chose the path of lies and deception to try to hide this misbegotten connection.
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Meretz is expected to be more than just another cynical party that has no ideological spine and no qualms about using any tactics. And the same is expected of its leader. Zandberg didn’t meet these baseline expectations; she failed and disappointed them. She raised doubts about her judgment and her image as a principled politician. From now on, she will be scrutinized with redoubled caution, in the hope that she has learned the lessons of the wretched scandal with which she began her term.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.