MK Zandberg to take political time out, in latest resignation from left-wing Meretz

Former party chair commits to serving out term as environmental protection minister, but says she’s ready to depart political ‘wheel of fame’

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Outgoing Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg attends a discussion regarding violence in Arab society on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Outgoing Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg attends a discussion regarding violence in Arab society on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg announced on Friday that she was taking a break from politics and would not compete in the upcoming elections, after nine years in the Knesset.

Zandberg announced in a statement posted to Facebook that she would continue to support her left-wing Meretz party during the campaign, and fulfill her ministerial duty until the end, but said the faction would head to the next national elections, the fifth since 2019, without her.

“At some point, the wheel of fame that every politician strives to stay on feels like a roundabout in a race to nowhere. This is my time to get off,” Zandberg wrote.

The retiring lawmaker claimed in her post she had “shaken” the Environmental Protection Ministry from its “marginal place in the cabinet,” moving it from “defense to initiative” when it comes to environmental protection, and also lauded the government’s work with Israel’s Arab community.

Zandberg, a senior member of Meretz, led the party for a brief period between 2018 and 2019 before being ousted by Nitzan Horowitz. Horowitz, the health minister, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down from the party’s leadership, but would still run for a Knesset seat.

In response to Zandberg’s resignation, Horowitz tweeted Friday that he was “sorry to hear” she would not run in the elections and thanked her for her work.

(From left) Meretz’s Yossi Beilin, Esawi Frej, Tamar Zandberg and Nitzan Horowitz at a memorial ceremony for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on November 4, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“Tamar Zandberg is a partner on the road and an excellent minister. She has made a huge contribution to Israeli society during her many years of dedicated social and environmental activities, as well as to our movement, Meretz,” Horowitz wrote.

Zandberg is one of several Meretz MKs to resign from their position in the lead-up to the next election.

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej announced last week that he too would be stepping down, bringing an end to a 10-year-long career with the party.

During his announcement, Frej recommended that Zandberg step up to the Meretz leadership.

The outspoken Frej also blamed Horowitz for his inability to keep rebel MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi in line, arguing that he had “failed the leadership test.”

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi attends a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 8, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Rinawie Zoabi briefly quit the coalition in May and later helped sink a bill key to the coalition’s survival, contributing to the government’s collapse. Horowitz was criticized for not properly vetting Rinawie Zoabi before granting her a spot on the Meretz list, as the Arab lawmaker’s politics wound up being far closer to that of the further left-wing Joint List.

The Meretz chairman was also accused of not getting involved enough in parliamentary matters, largely ignoring Rinawie Zoabi and other faction members, and instead focusing largely on his efforts in the cabinet.

Recent polling projects that Meretz would win four seats in the next election, down from the six it won in 2021, with some surveys predicting it may not pass the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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