Meretz, Religious Zionism primary elections coming up on Tuesday

The Religious Zionism primary election comes in the wake of Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir's announcement on August 15 that his party will run independently.

Israelis cast their votes at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on March 23, 2021 (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israelis cast their votes at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on March 23, 2021
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Primary elections for the left-wing Meretz Party and the right-wing Religious Zionist Party will be held today throughout Israel.

Meretz’s 18,500 members will vote to choose their party leader and Knesset list. Religious Zionist Party’s 24,113 members will choose their Knesset list, as MK Bezalel Smotrich was not challenged for the party leadership and will automatically occupy the first spot.

The Religious Zionist Party primary election comes in the wake of Otzma Yehudit Party leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir’s announcement on August 15 that his party would run independently. The two factions ran together in the previous election along with the anti-LGBT Noam Party, winning a combined six seats. A poll published by Maariv on Friday found that if the elections were held today, Ben-Gvir would win seven seats and Smotrich would win five.

All party lists must be handed in to the Central Election Committee by September 15 at 10 p.m.

The Religious Zionist Party vote will be held electronically via cellphone, with four stations set up for people who cannot or do not wish to vote remotely in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba and Petah Tikva.

Voters can choose up to eight out of the 16 candidates, with each choice counting as one vote.

 MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90) MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming elections, in Jerusalem, July 11, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

The candidates include current MKs Michal Woldiger, Ofir Sofer, Orit Struck and Simcha Rothman. Other candidates include Arnon Segal, a Temple Mount activist and brother of Channel 12 journalist Amit Segal; and settler leader Tzvi Sukkot. Results are expected at 8:30 p.m.

What up with Meretz

In the Meretz primary, voters will decide between two candidates for the party leadership, either former MK and Meretz leader Zehava Galon or current Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan. The two held a heated race, with Golan accusing Galon of leading Meretz to a niche, elitist, irrelevant position, and Galon accusing Golan of using bully tactics and aiming to lead the party closer to the Center, where she says it does not belong.

The two also noticeably do not agree on Meretz’s definition as a Zionist party. Golan has argued that it is a party of the Zionist Left, while Galon has argued that is a party that is a home for Israelis, both Zionists and non-Zionists. Polls taken so far have shown that the party will receive more votes with Galon as leader.

The Meretz primary will not be held remotely; members will need to vote in one of 39 different voting stations. Along with choosing either Galon or Golan, voters may choose four names out of the 24 candidates for the party’s Knesset list. They include current MKs Gaby Lasky, Mossi Raz, Michal Rozin and Ali Salalha, as well Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the party leader. Other candidates include Ori Zaki, who heads Meretz’s board of directors, and Peace Now leader Yariv Oppenheimer.

Meretz is predicted to win four seats in some polls, while in other polls it did not pass the electoral threshold. With either Galon or Golan occupying the first spot, only three out of the other 23 candidates would likely become MKs.

Meretz’s results are expected at 11 p.m.