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Nitzan Horowitz to step down as Meretz chairman ahead of elections

Health minister will still run for a seat on left-wing party’s Knesset slate, and keep his ministerial role until new government is formed

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz party faction meeting in the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz leads a Meretz party faction meeting in the Knesset on June 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the leader of the Meretz party, announced on Tuesday that he will not be running in the upcoming leadership contest, although he will still seek a position on the party’s electoral slate.

The party has been foundering in the polls of late, slipping extremely close to or even under the electoral threshold, and Horowitz was facing a primary challenge from Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Horowitz noted his achievements as health minister and celebrated having helped establish the now-outgoing government, but said he would not seek to lead the party into the new elections set for November 1.

“At this point in time, after more than three years as Meretz chairman in which I led the party in three election campaigns, brought it into the ‘change government’ and made numerous achievements, I have decided not to run for the Meretz chairmanship,” wrote Horowitz.

He thanked the other ministers and MKs who served under him in Meretz, notably failing to mention Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who severely undermined the stability of the coalition and was a factor in its ultimate demise.

Horowitz personally selected Rinawie Zoabi for the fourth spot on the Meretz slate, circumventing the primary results ahead of the March 2021 election, despite the fact that she had never been a party activist or even a member before that point.

Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (L) speaks with Ra’am MK Mazen Ghanaim (R) during a Knesset discussion on a bill to renew the application of some Israeli law to settlers, June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Golan, who announced he would be running for the leadership last week, praised Horowitz for his “contribution to Meretz, the health ministry, and the State of Israel,” following the latter’s announcement.

Related: Gunning to lead Meretz, Yair Golan looks to refocus the left around a single flag

Former Meretz chairwoman Zahava Galon also extolled Horowitz’s achievements, particularly for having made Meretz a governing party after 20 years in the opposition.

Galon said last month on 103FM radio that many Meretz activists and supporters had asked her to return to the party leadership but she said she was not considering such a move, as the party needed to “resolve its issues without looking for rescue services.”

Horowitz took over as Meretz party chair in 2019 and led the party in three elections. In the September 2019 elections and the March 2020 election Horowitz took Meretz into electoral alliances with other left-wing parties, but in March 2021 ran the party on a standalone slate and garnered six Knesset seats.

He is Israel’s first and only openly gay party leader.

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