Zehava Galon on Saturday called on disgruntled members of the Labor Party to join her own Meretz Party, in a bid to shore up support for the dwindled and sidelined political left.
Speaking at a cultural event in Tel Aviv, Galon said she was in talks with unnamed members of Labor about the possible change of allegiances, saying that current party head Avi Gabbai has “signaled to many that they are not wanted in their own party.”
“I am certainly telling them to come to Meretz, now its possible,” she said. “Together, we will build up the leftist camp.”
Since his election as Labor chairman last July, Gabbay has sought to move the party rightward in an apparent bid to bolster its standing, and has made a number of comments at odds with Labor’s historical stances.
In December he said preserving a “united” Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is more important than clinching a peace deal with the Palestinians.
In November he insinuated that the left “forgot what it means to be a Jew,” though he late walked back those comments.
In October, he said he would not evacuate West Bank settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, and days later called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism.”
Such comments have been received negatively by other members of the party.
Galon’s call comes just a week after she and other Mertez leaders reached an agreement that would see the party hold open primaries in March for the first time.
Galon had for months been advocating open primaries within the party, and resigned her Knesset seat in October to concentrate on the effort.
Last Thursday she and party officials agreed to do away with the delegate system and reached a compromise that would allow any Israeli to sign up as a member of Meretz up to a month before the March 22 primaries and vote for the party’s list.
Galon, faction chairman MK Ilan Gilon, MK Tamar Zandberg, and social activist Avi Dabush have all announced their candidacy for party leader.
Speaking at a separate cultural event in Holon, Labor’s Gabbay said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had served too many years in office, and could not lead to change in Israel.
“I believe a prime minister should bow out after finishing his second term,” he said, adding that the opposition parties were “determined to overthrow this government and hold new elections.”
Gabbay last week said immediate elections were necessary for the betterment of the country, which was currently being run by a government “preoccupied with itself and its survival.”
He predicted elections would be held by year’s end, and that he would be elected prime minister.