Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On 370.
(photo credit: ben hartman)
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On can remain party leader until 2019, after a motion to move up the leadership primary failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote from the party council late Sunday night.
However, a majority (54%) of Meretz council voters supported the motion by activist Avi Ofer, showing a lack of confidence in their party’s leader. The result was only 33 votes away from moving up the leadership vote from January 2019 to February 2018, which was thought likely to lead to Gal-On’s ouster.
Despite this, Gal-On does not plan to resign from Meretz’s leadership.
Gal-On’s position in the party was already weak; her proposal to hold an open party primary, in which nonmembers could participate, was previously voted down twice. In addition, popular MK Ilan Gilon announced that he would run against her for leader before the next Knesset election.
The embattled Meretz leader addressed the party’s council ahead of the vote, calling it an attempt to unseat her.
Gal-On also defended her twice-rejected proposal as a way to draw new voters.
“Instead of hovering around the [3.25%] electoral threshold [or about four Knesset seats], why can’t we have 10 seats?... No open primary and an early leadership vote is political suicide,” she said. “We’re behaving like people on the Titanic who are ignoring the iceberg.”
Gal-On also cited a Knesset Channel poll that found an open primary would bring 15% of the population to consider voting for Meretz.
Gilon, however, was not convinced.
“I’ve been in politics for 40 years, and I’ve never heard one person say, ‘I’m not voting Meretz because of their internal election system,’” he said. “Labor is bleeding voters, even now, after the [new Labor leader Avi] Gabbay euphoria, and we’re not absorbing them – us, the reddest, most socialist party.”
Gilon argued that a primary system revolves around who has the most money, and does not fit a socialist party like Meretz.
Instead, he suggested the party’s candidates list be chosen in a “totally functional” way, by conducting polls to see who would bring it the most seats.
During a later speech at the council conference, a party activist named Uri Shmilovich heckled MK Esawi Frej, calling him a homophobe and saying he did not speak out when gay Israeli Arabs were murdered and does not participate in LGBT pride parades. This criticism has been expressed in party forums in the past.
Soon after, Shmilovich claimed Aaed Bader, the Arab outreach coordinator for the party, spat at him, called him a “homo,” and threatened to kill him. The dispute devolved into physical violence, Shmilovich called the police, who escorted Bader from the premises.