The left-wing Meretz party failed to enter the Knesset for the first time since it was formed in 1992, an almost-final tally of ballots from the elections confirmed on Thursday.
With some 99 percent of votes counted, Meretz was falling just below the electoral threshold, a mere 3,800 ballots short of entering the Knesset.
In a video posted shortly after it was confirmed Meretz didn’t make it into the Knesset, party leader Zehava Galon accepted responsibility for the loss.
“This is a very difficult moment for me and the members of Meretz,” Galon said, adding that the results were a “disaster for Meretz, a disaster for the country, and yes, a disaster for me personally.”
Galon noted that she had “pushed for a merger with Merav Michaeli,” referring to failed efforts to forge a joint electoral slate with the center-left Labor party, and said she had warned that Prime Minister Yair Lapid was “playing with fire” in his attempts to boost the size of his own Yesh Atid party, siphoning off votes from ideological partners.
Galon argued that half of Israelis “believe in equality, in human rights, the end of the occupation, and social justice,” and that “no fascist, Kahanist, racist, homophobe or chauvinist will extinguish this spirit,” referencing the far-right Religious Zionism party, which won 14 seats to become the third largest party in the Knesset.
Meretz was founded in the lead-up to the 1992 elections, as a merger of the three left-wing parties Ratz, Mapam, and Shinui, and was led by veteran lawmaker Shulamit Aloni. After becoming the third largest faction in the Knesset with 12 seats, it was included in then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s coalition and backed the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians.
With the failure of the peace process and the beginning of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, Meretz’s influence in the Knesset declined. After a disappointing showing in the 2003 elections, the party briefly rebranded as Yachad, under Yossi Beilin, but reverted back to Meretz in time for the 2006 vote after the new name did not boost its popularity.
After two short-lived mergers with other factions in 2019 and 2020, Meretz, led by Nitzan Horovitz, ran alone at the 2021 elections and won six seats. It joined the diverse unity government under then-prime minister Naftali Bennett — the first time it served in a coalition since 2000, when it formed a part of then-prime minister Ehud Barak’s government.
Prior to Tuesday’s elections, Labor chief Michaeli refused to unite her party with Meretz on a joint electoral slate, insisting that both parties would be able to pass the electoral threshold by themselves.
The decision was a fateful error, leaving Labor with just four seats, compared to the seven it won in the last election, while Meretz was completely wiped out of the Knesset, helping ensure a majority for Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc.
Also Thursday, as the vote count was wrapped up, Netanyahu’s Likud party lost a seat, dropping from 32 to 31, while Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu moved up one seat, from five to six.
Thus, Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc was on course to win 64 seats, current coalition parties had 51, while the unaligned Arab party Hadash-Ta’al had five.