Victorious Zandberg to woo Labor MKs to Meretz

In her victory speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, new Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg singled out Knesset members in Labor and other parties who she thought would fit in well in Meretz

MK Tamar Zandberg (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MK Tamar Zandberg
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
New Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg will soon meet with Labor Party MKs in an effort to persuade them to leave their party, which is floundering in the polls, and join Meretz, sources close to her said over the weekend.
Zandberg won 71% of the vote in Thursday’s primary. Former Peace Now secretary-general Avi Buskila finished second with 28.5%.
Interview with MK Tamar Zandberg at the 2018 INSS Conference
In her victory speech at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Zandberg thanked Buskila and said he and his supporters would help move the party forward.
She singled out Knesset members from other parties who she thought would fit in well in Meretz, naming MKs Merav Michaeli, Stav Shaffir, Yossi Yona and Miki Rosenthal of Labor; Ofer Shelah and Yael German of Yesh Atid; and Roy Folkman of Kulanu.
Zandberg lamented that Labor did not support holding an immediate election two weeks ago, when there was a chance of ending the tenure of the current government. She accused Labor of becoming the “bodyguard” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.
“For too long, Labor has been a ship that zigzags, kisses up the Right, and loses its direction and its conscience,” Zandberg said. “It is time to put an end to fake politics, to stop wearing costumes, apologizing and being scared. I invite Labor members who are sick of their internal politics, kissing up to the Right, and not being able to say the word ‘occupation’ to join us.”
Zandberg also invited “Yesh Atid members who don’t want [their chairman] Yair Lapid to become a second Netanyahu” to join her party.
Both Labor chairman Avi Gabbay and Lapid released statements congratulating Zandberg on her primary victory, as did Labor MK Amir Peretz.
Labor officials expressed concern over the weekend that their party would fall further in the polls when Meretz enjoys a traditional post-primary bump in the polls. But Labor MK Hilik Bar said he did not expected the bump to come at Labor’s expense.
“The bump will come at the expense of Lapid,” Bar said. “I want Meretz to be strong. I don’t see it as a threat to Labor. There will of course be a bump, but then the two parties will return to the proportion of us as the leader of the Center-Left and them as our satellite party.”
Michaeli said she thanked Zandberg for the vote of confidence and wished her success.
“I am sure we’ll find Meretz with us when we, Labor and the Zionist Union, replace the right-wing government with one that will actually take care of Israel and Israelis,” she said.
Additional tension between Labor and Meretz was revealed Saturday night after Channel 2 reported that Zandberg was advised during her campaign by Moshe Klughaft, a strategist for Bayit Yehudi and right-wing groups. Gabby responded to the report by blaming her attacks directed at Labor on Klughaft, saying that if Meretz continues that strategy, "it does not deserve to cross the electoral threshold."
Zandberg denied that Klughaft worked for her, saying he offered her advice and she took some of it.
“Something is happening in Meretz,” Zandberg said in her victory speech. “We were eulogized, but Meretz is coming back big time. We will be part of the revolution that the people of Israel need.”
The turnout was only 53.6% among some 31,679 eligible voters, with 16,954 casting ballots. Zandberg promised in campaign stops throughout the day that the party would win 10 Knesset seats in the next election.
She replaced Zehava Gal-On, who dropped out of the race after leading the party for six years.
Gal-On wished her well, saying that “Israeli politics can be a cruel minefield and the main battles still lie ahead, but I am sure you will handle them with honor and determination.” staff contributed to this report.