Meretz spokesman: Frej 'is in a realistic spot'

Ex-MK blasts Meretz-Labor merger: ‘Arabs want to be partners. Not decorations’

Issawi Frej, pushed down to No.11 on newly unified list, accuses Meretz chief Horowitz, who brokered deal with Labor-Gesher, of acting against his party’s principles

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Meretz MK Issawi Freij seen here in a Meretz event from December 2014. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Meretz MK Issawi Freij seen here in a Meretz event from December 2014. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

A veteran Arab member of Meretz slammed a deal on Monday between his party and Labor-Gesher to run together on a unified slate in the upcoming Knesset elections, warning that Arab voters will not turn out in high numbers to vote for the merged list’s current makeup.

Meretz and Labor-Gesher announced on Monday morning that they agreed to run on a unified list, which did not include Arab representation among its first ten slots.

“Arabs want to be partners. Not decorations,” Issawi Frej, a former Meretz MK who was given the 11th slot on the unified slate, told The Times of Israel.

“If the agreement holds, Arabs definitely will not cast ballots for us in a significant way. What I am going to tell them? Vote for a party that does not put them in an important spot on its list?” he stated.

Frej lost his Knesset seat in the national elections in September. He was in the 6th slot on the Democratic Union list, which included Meretz and only won five seats. He had been an MK since 2013.

The upcoming vote is slated to take place on March 2, but parties are required to submit their final slates to the Central Elections Committee on Wednesday.

Frej accused Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz, who brokered the deal with Labor-Gesher, of acting against his party’s principles.

“What he did demonstrated a lack of leadership and it contradicts our party’s values that affirm Jewish-Arab partnership,” he said.

Meretz is a left-wing party that has historically supported granting Arab Israelis equal rights.

Labor-Gesher head Amir Peretz, left, and Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz during a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 13, 2020. (Flash90)

A spokesperson for Horowitz responded to Frej’s rebuke of the Meretz chief, arguing that he still has a chance at being elected to the Knesset in the 11th slot.

“It is important that Frej knows that he is in a realistic spot,” she said in a text message.

A poll published by Channel 12 on Monday indicated if elections were held today, the unified Meretz and Labor-Gesher slate would win nine seats in parliament.

Horowitz hailed the Meretz and Labor-Gesher merger on Monday as a “historic step.”

“This merger is good for anyone wants to see a different government here. [It] is good news for the center-left bloc and bad news for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” he said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

Recent polls had shown both Meretz and Labor-Gesher hovering at between four and six Knesset seats, possibly in danger of falling below the 3.25% threshold of total votes required to enter the Knesset.

Meretz’s central committee is expected to convene Tuesday at 5PM to vote whether to approve the merger with Labor-Gesher.

Frej said he hopes the body will scuttle the deal: “I will explain to them why I think it is so problematic.”

Afif Abu Much, a prominent political activist from Baqa al-Gharbiya and a contributor to the Al-Monitor news site, also argued the merger reflects the center-left’s disdain for Arab Israelis.

“This development shows they want the Arab citizens to be their servants,” he said in a phone call.

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