Meretz looks on the bright side

"The collapse of the Likud is of utmost importance in terms of the Israeli peace camp."

No cheers of joy were heard at the Tzavta Theater in Tel Aviv, where Meretz members and supporters gathered to watch the results of the exit polls. The five mandates they awarded Meretz brought it down by one from the preelection poll predictions and far down from the eight to 10 chairman Yossi Beilin hoped for on Monday. "We can all agree that something historical happened tonight in Israeli politics and Israeli society," Beilin said. "For the first time since 1967 a majority of the MKs who will be sworn in on April 17 will be sworn in on the basis of a platform of dividing the land. "The collapse of the Likud is of utmost importance in terms of the Israeli peace camp. We are facing the creation of a coalition capable of bringing a division of the land and withdrawing from the West Bank as we have withdrawn from Gaza. Meretz is ready to participate in a coalition that will end the occupation." He reiterated that Meretz would not sit in a coalition that would not make a significant change in welfare policy and restore a significant part of the welfare budget. Nor, he said, would Meretz sit in a government with the Likud, Israel Beiteinu, the National Religious Party or the National Union. "If right-wing parties will join the government, we shall be a fighting opposition," he said. He also expressed hope that the final election results would still bring a change in favor of Meretz. "We have to draw our conclusions about our long-term path and about reaching more sectors," MK Ran Cohen said. He also described the results of the exit polls as indicative of "the hysteria of the Israeli public." He also expressed hope that Tzvia Greenstein, Meretz's haredi woman candidate, would still make it into the Knesset. "There is no doubt that Meretz hoped for more mandates," MK Zehava Galon said, "but there has been a serious political upheaval here. We hoped for more. There is no cause for great joy nor is there cause for crisis."