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Left-wing Meretz said to reject becoming Jewish-Arab party

Report says internal poll has indicated minuscule support for initiative among target voters, leading party to dismiss move as ‘not feasible’

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz (R) and party member Tamar Zandberg at a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 12, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz (R) and party member Tamar Zandberg at a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 12, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Senior members of Meretz have rejected a new initiative to transform the left-wing party into a Jewish-Arab slate, citing a dearth of public support for such a move, a report said Wednesday.

An internal poll, conducted as Israel appears set to go to its fourth election in two years, indicated that just 0.7 percent of the country’s center-left voters are sure they would vote for a Jewish-Arab party, the Haaretz daily reported.

Another 21.6% said there was a chance they would vote for such a party, which would have equal representation of Jewish and Arab candidates and whose ideology would be somewhere between the center-left Yesh Atid and the predominantly Arab Joint List. One of the Joint List’s four factions, Hadash, is Arab-Jewish.

“Such a move isn’t feasible,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior Meretz member as saying. “That’s the truth. We should save the effort. This story has been blown out of proportion.”

Another unnamed Meretz source estimated that the target audience for a Jewish-Arab party was just 3,000-4,000 people.

“In the end, it really is a very small group,” the source said. “We can attract Arab voters, but they aren’t necessarily looking for a Jewish-Arab party. On the other hand, Jewish voters could be deterred from voting for such a list, because Meretz voters regard themselves by definition as Zionist left.”

Last month, Meretz discussed the new initiative, presented by former party lawmakers and former members of the fellow left-wing Labor party. They argued that the move would rekindle interest in the party and bring back voters who had shifted their support to the centrist Blue and White or the Joint List.

Chairman of the Labor party Amir Peretz (C), Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz (2L) and party members hold a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 12, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Meretz and Labor ran together in the last election in March, but split afterward as Labor — sans MK Merav Michaeli — joined the Likud-Blue and White coalition, while Meretz opted for the opposition.

Meretz currently has three lawmakers — its leader Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg and Yair Golan — but is expected to increase its power to five-seven Knesset seats according to recent opinion polls. The once-mighty Labor, which led Israel for its first 30 years and was last in power in 2001, is projected to disappear from the political landscape.

In the meeting, Horowitz reportedly warned that new left-wing parties were going to be formed to compete with Meretz, including one by current Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who “has no intention” of partnering with Meretz.

He also mentioned a new Jewish-Arab party announced recently by Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam. Reports in October had named Yona Yahav, the former three-time mayor of Haifa, as a possible partner for Salam. But Horowitz said that such a party would not be left-wing.

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