Meretz, Hatnua Hahadasha finalize merger, lists

Amos Oz slams Barak as 'pretend' leader of peace camp.

Following weeks of negotiation and speculation, the Meretz Council on Monday evening approved a merger with Hatnua Hahadasha, hoping to attract new voters in February's general elections. The joint list is led by Meretz chairman Haim Oron, followed by former Meretz MK Ilan Gillon. Former Channel 10 journalist Nitzan Horowitz took the third slot on the list. Rounding out the top 10 are Meretz MK Zahava Galon, former Meretz MK Mossy Raz; Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan; attorney Talia Sasson; Michal Rozin, director-general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel; former Labor MK Tzali Reshef, a Hatnua Hahadasha founder; and Issawi Frige, an Arab accountant. The merger was approved by a large majority of the council members assembled at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. Prior to the merger agreement, author Amos Oz, one of the figures behind the formation of Hatnua Hahadasha, made a speech in which he attacked Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, saying that Barak wasn't the leader of the peace camp as he claimed to be. "What kind of a man, who pretends to be the leader of the peace camp, is Barak? Who hasn't dismantled or tried to dismantle even one outpost in the past two years, who allows the hilltop youth to attack Arabs and IDF soldiers and who says he is willing to be a junior partner in Netanyahu's government?" Oz said. He called on the Meretz Council to approve the merger. "Meretz must shake off the image of a niche party and the merger with Hatnua Hahadasha will do exactly that," Oz said. "Hundreds of thousands of people know that Meretz's political agenda is right. Now all they need is a good reason to vote for it." In response, the Labor Party issued a statement saying that Oz's words "were hallucinatory and indicated the irrelevance of Meretz to the Israeli reality." "If Oz and his friends had any honesty left they would stand by Barak, especially at times like these when he is forced to block, all by himself, the irresponsible calls of the right-wing parties and Kadima," the statement read. Oron said that establishing a left-wing social-democratic bloc would help fill a void felt by all. "There is no one else to take up this task," he said. "Meretz is opening up to more and new sectors and wants to get that message to the voters." Oron added that he believed the polls predicting more Knesset seats for Meretz indicated a change in attitudes. "I take upon myself all the responsibility for this move if it doesn't work out, but I have a feeling it will," Oron said. Horowitz, whose high position on the joint list promises him a first Knesset term, said that he hoped the merger would give life to a better vision for the future. "We need to be the address for anyone who cares about the environment. A healthy environment is inseparable part of a good life," he said.