Arab-Jewish Meretz leadership candidates exit race, endorse Zandberg

Issawi Frej and Mossi Raz say current chairwoman best embodies coexistence they stand for; central committee to decide between incumbent and former MK Nitzan Horowitz next week

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

(From L-R) Gaby Lasky, Issawi Frej, Tamar Zandberg and Mossi Raz at a Meretz party press conference on June 17, 2019. (Elad Malka)
(From L-R) Gaby Lasky, Issawi Frej, Tamar Zandberg and Mossi Raz at a Meretz party press conference on June 17, 2019. (Elad Malka)

A pair of Meretz members who just last week launched a “shared Arab-Jewish leadership” bid to head the left-wing party announced on Monday that they were dropping out of the race and throwing their support behind incumbent Tamar Zandberg.

“There will be no revolution without Jewish-Arab partnership,” said MK Issawi Frej at a press conference alongside former Meretz MK Mossi Raz. The two were joined by Zandberg as well as party member Gaby Laski.

“In the last elections, Arab society proved that it wanted a partnership. Tamar Zandberg has proved that she is a full partner in this process,” Frej said. “Accordingly, we hereby announce the rescinding of our candidacy for chairmanship and declare that together along with Tamar Zandberg we will dictate a new agenda in the State of Israel.”

“We are doing the most natural thing for us today. This is our quartet for the Knesset,” added Raz, referring to the four party members at the press conference hoping to place at the top of Meretz’s slate when it’s chosen by the party’s central committee next month.

“When I go and look for who is more committed to the idea of partnership, I find Tamar Zandberg. When I examine who is more committed to the struggle against the occupation, I find Tamar Zandberg,” Raz added.

Nitzan Horowitz during a Knesset session in 2011. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Nitzan Horowitz during a Knesset session in 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Meretz announced Sunday that it will not hold primaries. Instead, committee delegates will appoint a leader for the party and decide its slate for the September 17 elections.

The committee is set to vote on its leader on June 27 and its list on July 11. The two votes will be held within the party committee, which has about 1,000 members.

The faction made the decision after 60 percent of the party voted against motions to hold open primaries or to freeze the current list.

That decision was seen as a failure for Zandberg, and for the current list of candidates, whose posts are now in jeopardy.

“It’s a first step on the way to renewal and establishing a broad camp, as I promised to do,” said Nitzan Horowitz, a former MK from the party who has announced that he would run for the leadership post. “I’m convinced that these votes will strengthen Meretz significantly and give it a tailwind ahead of the general elections.”

Horowitz served in the Knesset from 2009 to 2015 as a Meretz lawmaker. Also on Monday, the party’s No. 5 representative, Ali Salalha — a surprise Druze candidate in the party’s last primaries who was said to have been influential in bringing thousands of non-Jewish Israelis to vote for Meretz in April — announced his endorsement of Horowitz.

The party has been said to be mulling a merger with the center-left Labor party ahead of the elections.

In the party’s first open primaries before April’s elections, a resounding 86 percent, or 21,000 members, participated.

But Meretz barely crossed the electoral threshold in that election, receiving 3.7% of the national vote and winning four Knesset seats.

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