Former Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni, who supports MK Zehava Gal-On in Tuesday’s party leadership race, called Gal-On’s competitor, MK Ilan Gilon, “tiring” and a “nudnik” on Sunday in the first negative comments made by either side in what has been a quiet race.The 1000 members of Meretz’s governing council will go to the polls at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Tuesday to select a new leader for the leftist party that fell to only three seats in the last election.Meretz reached a peak of 12 seats in 1992 under Aloni’s leadership.“Zehava is a fighter who has the chutzpah and the courage the party needs,” Aloni said.“No one can lead the party now other than her. I know the other guy, and he is tiring. We need to make sure that nudnik stays on the side.”Aloni, 83, said that Gal-On can restore to Meretz the focus on human-rights issues that it had when she led the party.She said she did not believe Gal-On could bring Meretz back to 12 seats but that she believes the party will rise again, due in part to the socioeconomic protests she attended over the summer.Gal-On said that she did not intend to attack Gilon and that she would keep the race positive.She said she was saving her attacks for after the election, when she hopes to unite the Left against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government.“I don’t want to bite inside the party, because when we are so small, we can’t afford to lose anyone,” Gal-On said.“But I have always been a biter, and after the election, Meretz will start biting again.”Gal-On predicted that in the next election, Kadima, Labor and journalist Yair Lapid’s new party would fight over the political center, leaving Meretz alone on the firm Left. For instance, she said that unlike past leaders, she would insist on Meretz placing an Arab among the party’s top five candidates.Asked whether she could restore the party to the 12 seats it won under Aloni, she said, “I am optimistic but I won’t jump above my belly button.”Gilon responded to Aloni by saying that “Shula says a lot of things” and that in the past, she also had “compliments like that for Zehava.” He said that despite her comments, he would continue to show respect for Aloni.Over the past few weeks, Gilon hosted regional rallies in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Kibbutz Zikim in the Negev. At the Tel Aviv event, activists in the summer socioeconomic protests endorsed Gilon.A spokeswoman for Gilon said the race would be close and would be decided by voters who are still undecided. Gilon’s campaign chairman, Meretz Youth leader Tomer Reznik, said he was ready and sure of victory.“Under me, Meretz won’t be a North Tel Aviv boutique party,” he said.