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Meretz chief to stay on after party bags fifth seat

Zahava Gal-on vows to remain in politics a day after saying she’d step down if party dropped to 4 Knesset members

Zahava Gal-on, leader of the left-wing Meretz party seen at party headquarters as the exit polls in the Israeli general elections for the 20th parliament are announced on March 17, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)
Zahava Gal-on, leader of the left-wing Meretz party seen at party headquarters as the exit polls in the Israeli general elections for the 20th parliament are announced on March 17, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)

Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-on vowed Thursday to remain at the left-wing party’s helm, a day after she announced that she could relinquish her Knesset seat and quit politics due to lackluster election results.

Meretz looked set to win only four seats on Wednesday, which would have been a drop of two from the previous Knesset, prompting Gal-on’s resignation. But after the remaining one percent of votes were tallied Thursday, the party gained a fifth seat and Gal-on declared that she would stay on.

“I was deeply moved by the overwhelming support that I received [since announcing my resignation]. We will rebuild Meretz and the Israeli left anew, under my stewardship,” she said.

“Meretz received its fifth seat from its young supporters, from IDF soldiers,” she said, adding that the party had “succeeded against all odds.”

“We will wave a flag before the right-wing government. [A flag] of peace, social justice, equality and the struggle against racism in parliament and outside it,” she said.

Election results featured an upset for left-leaning parties Meretz and the Zionist Union, the latter of which seemed poised, according to polls during the campaign, to beat out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Gal-on had said that she would take responsibility if her party were to underperform at the ballot.

“If, in the final results, it turns out that Meretz got only four seats, then I will resign from the Knesset” to let her seat be filled by Tamar Zandberg, No. 5 on the party’s list, ” she said Wednesday.

Despite a strong showing in pre-election polls predicting that the far-left faction would receive between five to six mandates, Meretz officials voiced increasing concern in the final weeks that they may not even pass the new required electoral threshold of 3.25%, according to Channel 2.

“Meretz did it against all the odds, standing up to a new electoral threshold and bullies that tried to eradicate us,” Gal-on told supporters Tuesday night following initial election results that indicated the party had won five seats.

“We did it [standing] against two major parties that tried to grow at the expense of the ideological parties, and as it appears, the right [wing] truly succeeded,” she said.

“As opposed to them, we will stand strong in the next Knesset as well.”

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