Leading Meretz candidate: I want to be Diaspora's voice

"Israel must be the home of the Jewish world. The Jewish world has something to say about progressive values and I hope its influence increases."

MK Tamar Zandberg (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MK Tamar Zandberg
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Leading Meretz leadership candidate Tamar Zandberg said that if she wins the March 22 primary, she intends to use the Meretz chairmanship to help advance religious pluralism and other issues important to Diaspora Jewry.
Zandberg has been active in the Women of the Wall group and has come to their monthly Rosh Hodesh services at the Western Wall wearing a colorful tallit (prayer shawl). The tallit is prominently displayed on the shelf of her office in the Knesset.
“Meretz already is the voice of the Jewish Diaspora and religious pluralism in Israel,” Zandberg said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post in the Knesset. “Relations with the Jewish world are important to me personally. Israel must be the home of the Jewish world.
The Jewish world has what to say about progressive values and I hope their influence increases.”
Zandberg said she is secular and does not believe in God.
But her partner, Uri Zaki, is religiously observant and on holidays, she accompanies him to Reform, Conservative, or liberal Orthodox egalitarian services.
Incumbent Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On and the party’s number two, MK Ilan Gilon, quit the Meretz leadership race last Wednesday.
But Zandberg was already considered the leading candidate before they left, with some 40% of the party’s vote in internal party polls.
Their departure appeared to help Meretz overall. A survey conducted by pollster Camil Fuchs for Channel 10 on Sunday, predicted the party rising from its current five to eight seats in the next Knesset, while the Zionist Union was predicted to lose half of its support and fall from 24 mandates to only 12.
“I want Meretz to be strong regardless of what happens to other parties and not depend on anyone else,” she said when asked if political missteps by Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay’s had helped her party.
Zandberg expressed hope that a Center-Left coalition would be formed with Meretz as its central partner. She said she would not dictate who could join such a coalition as a junior partner, even if it was Shas, United Torah Judaism, or Yisrael Beytenu, whose leader Avigdor Liberman she denounced as corrupt and expressed hope he would not be in the next Knesset.
If elected, Zandberg would be the only female head of a party running in the next election. She first got elected to the Knesset in 2013 thanks to regulations in Meretz that required that 40% of the faction be women.
“Meretz is the most feminist party in the Knesset,” she said. “Meretz led the battles for equality and against women trafficking. For us, the #MeToo campaign is not a trend, but just another step in the right direction.”
Reacting to a controversy over whether Meretz defines itself as Zionist, Zandberg answered in the affirmative but said there was also room in the party for Arabs like MK Esawi Frej, who do not define themselves as Zionist.
“Meretz is Zionist, period,” she said. “Meretz is the Zionist party. It is egalitarian and pluralist and secular. The Zionist model society that is secular and inspired by Jewish texts envisioned by Zionist visionaries is the platform of Meretz.”