Zehava Galon, a former head of the Meretz party, announced on Tuesday that she would be running to head the party once again ahead of the upcoming Knesset elections.
“Meretz is back. I am back. Meretz is back,” Galon announced in a short video.
Israeli media had reported in recent weeks that Galon would return to try and lead Meretz in this round of elections.
She will now face off against Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan on August 23 for the party lead.
“Wow, wow, wow. I received so many messages in recent days,” Galon said in a longer version of the video that was released soon after. “I was really moved. As you know, during all of the election campaigns I stood by Meretz. But I really did not miss the Knesset,” she said.
“In recent years I founded the Zulat Institute for Equality and Human Rights, I wrote, provided commentary, spent time with my wonderful grandchildren, and I was happy to see you going out to protest and bringing about the formation of the Change Government. Who could even have imagined that such a thing could have happened?!”, she said.
“But in recent weeks something is happening here. We are standing now at a breaking point. The Bibistim [Netanyahu followers] and Kahanists succeeded in forcing upon us an unnecessary election, and if Netanyahu wins, it will not be an exaggeration to say that it may be the last democratic election. And then, all of the incredible changes that we worked for are in danger.”
"When I look at the polls I cannot ignore one simple fact: If Meretz ceases to exist, it will not only be the end of the Israeli Left, but also the end to the chance for change, and the end of Israeli democracy."Zahava Galon
"The country is in danger"
“The country is in danger,” Galon said. “When I look at the polls, I cannot ignore one simple fact: If Meretz ceases to exist, it will not only be the end of the Israeli Left, but also the end to the chance for change, and the end of Israeli democracy.”
“I know that I have a responsibility, and I do not intend to stand on the sidelines. I am coming back. And I promise to do everything in order for Meretz to be there, large, ethical and strong.”
“But now Meretz needs us. Israelis, Leftists, who believe in peace, in ending the occupation, in a just society, come. Together we will return to Meretz. We will bring back our values. The hope. Repeat after me: Meretz is back. I am back. Meretz is back,” Galon concluded.
Galon met later on Tuesday with Prime Minister Yair Lapid and expressed her support for the “Change Bloc” led by Lapid, according to a statement.
Yair Golan responded to Galon’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon, saying that “Zehava Galon has experience and a past of significant work, but this time Meretz is looking to the future.”
“The challenge is not who will achieve the mandate that oscillates between Labor and Meretz, but who will return to Meretz the left-wing voters who are in Yesh Atid, Blue and White and other parties. I am confident that I can build a large and meaningful home and ensure that Meretz will be the left compass of the next government. Meretz needs to step forward with its head held high,” Golan said.
A recent poll by Channel 13 found that if Galon headed Meretz, the party would earn five seats and Labor would win six. However, if Golan heads Meretz the party will only win four seats, losing a seat to Labor, which will win seven.
If Galon defeats Golan, Meretz and Labor with near-certainty will not merge into one party. Labor chairwoman and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli has reiterated that she intends to run alone, and hinted in a congratulatory tweet that she had not changed her position.
“I congratulate my friend Zehava Galon who decided to return to politics. I am sure that Zehava will fight for Meretz’s return as a strong and independent political body,” Michaeli wrote on Twitter.
Meretz MKs Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin immediately expressed their support for Galon.
“Galon is loyal to her values, honest, clever and experienced. In the past, she doubled Meretz’s power and I believe in her ability to strengthen Meretz for the second time. I support her with all my heart,” Raz said.
Rozin called Galon “the compass that Meretz needs at this time.”
“I believe that she will confidently lead Meretz into the next coalition and government, while maintaining Meretz’s values and ideology,” Rozin said.
Galon later said in a post on Facebook that this was “not an easy decision.”
“About five years ago, I resigned from the Meretz leadership after 16 years in the Knesset. I did not plan to run again – but I also have a responsibility for the fate of Meretz, which is on the edge of the electoral threshold, and also a responsibility for the fate of the Israeli-democratic bloc and the partnership of this bloc with the Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Galon wrote. “I felt that I could not look at myself in the mirror if, due to my preference for my important activity in Zulat, I would bring about Netanyahu’s rise again.”
Galon stated that she believes she could lead Meretz to “increase its power and be significant,” and “bring back the base that deserted it.”
“I cannot stand on the side and allow for the faithful-theocratic bloc led by [opposition leader Benjamin] Netanyahu, [Religious Zionism chair MK Bezalel] Smotrich and [MK Itamar] Ben-Gvir return to power,” she wrote.