Settlement watchdog head resigns to run for Meretz leadership

Peace Now’s Avi Buskila set to announce candidacy for left-wing party; rival MK Zandberg gets support from former leader

Then-director general of Peace Now Avi Buskila speaks during a rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, May 27, 2017. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Then-director general of Peace Now Avi Buskila speaks during a rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, May 27, 2017. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The head of the Peace Now settlement watchdog resigned Sunday in a move seen as preparing the way for him to run for the leadership of the dovish Meretz party.

Avi Buskila, 42, took over as director of Peace Now in October 2016. Hebrew media reports said Buskila is expected to announce his campaign to head Meretz later in the day.

Current party head Zehava Galon last week reached an agreement with other Meretz leaders to hold open primaries in March for the first time.

Galon, faction chairman MK Ilan Gilon, MK Tamar Zandberg, and social activist Avi Dabush have all announced their candidacy for the party’s leadership.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg attends an Interior Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former party chairman Yossi Beilin, an erstwhile peace negotiator and justice minister, said Sunday that he backs Zanderg’s candidacy.

“I support with all my heart the candidacy of Tamar Zandberg for the leadership of Meretz,” Beilin said. “I believe that she’s capable of transforming Meretz so that it is younger, more relevant, and has greater appeal among the general public.”

Yossi Beilin attends a Constitution, Law, and Justice, Committee meeting in the Knesset, on July 9, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Friday, Ran Cohen, who as a past Meretz lawmaker served as minister of trade and industry, also voiced his backing for Zandberg.

Galon had for months been advocating open primaries within the party, and she resigned her Knesset seat in October to concentrate on the effort.

Last Thursday she and party officials agreed to do away with the delegate system and reached a compromise that would allow any Israeli to sign up as a member of Meretz up to a month before the March 22 primaries and vote for the party’s list.

Before the change, Meretz’s primaries were a two-stage process in which party members elected delegates to the party’s top committee, which then selected the Knesset list.

But calls have grown in recent years for the party to do away with the delegate system and switch to more direct primaries, a move that some in the party hope could expand the reach of the shrunken and sidelined political left.

Meretz party leader the-then MK Zehava Galon seen during a Finance Committee meeting in the Knesset, on September 11, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

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