Meretz mulls a failed merger and its collapse to three seats

Party leader Oron called on to step down in favor of Gal-On.

haim oron 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haim oron 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On will probably not make it to the next Knesset, after the merger with Hatnua Hahadasha proved an abject failure, with the joint list winning a mere three Knesset seats. Gal-On, who had agreed to give up her No. 3 slot for Channel 10 journalist Nitzan Horowitz from Hatnua Hahadasha as part of the merger, said Wednesday she would not ask him to give it up for her now. Horowitz himself said that he had no plans to give up his seat. "I am sorry about the results. This is not what we had in mind, but we are part of a bigger story. It's not just a blow to Meretz, it's a blow to the entire left-wing bloc," Horowitz said. When Meretz Chairman MK Haim Oron formulated the merger with the new movement of well-known public figures three months ago in an attempt to strengthen the Left, he could not have imagined that this would be the result. Early polls were favorable, giving the merged party up to nine seats. But the IDF offensive in Gaza forced the party to blunt its criticism of the government, and the truncated election campaign that followed Operation Cast Lead gave the party little time to recover. What's more, many potential Meretz voters apparently chose Kadima at the last minute, buying into its message that doing so was the best way to block the Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu from becoming prime minister. So veteran Meretz MKs Gal-On and Avshalom Vilan now find themselves outside the Knesset, though Gal-On may yet squeeze in, depending on how the surplus vote-sharing agreement it signed with Labor plays out. On Wednesday, Oron said he and other party members would have to study the election results and to decide what to do next. Suggestions that Oron resign were heard from various quarters of the merged party, though no one in the movement was willing to issue such a call openly. However, the WePower organization, which promotes representation of women in all professional sectors, called on Oron to take responsibility for the failure and resign so that Gal-On, who has always championed women's rights in the Knesset, could move up. "'Jumes' is responsible for the collapse of Meretz," said Michal Yudin, the chairwoman of WePower, using Oron's nickname. "Zehava Gal-On is an important and effective lawmaker, and she earned her spot in the Knesset." Several other women's organizations followed suit later Wednesday, calling jointly for any of the three elected MKs - Oron, Ilan Gilon or Horowitz - to step down and give his spot to Gal-On. "It is unprecedented that a party that declares it works to promote women's rights would lose its credibility by giving up on Gal-On, who did so much for women," the groups' statement read. "I hadn't dreamed of such a scenario, but we will have to deal with it," Gal-On said Wednesday. "It is a difficult day for me personally and the disappointment is great, but I accept the public's decision." Gal-On said the election results indicated that the entire Left had a problem. "Meretz will have to define itself again, to go back to its traditional values - the struggle for human rights, values that I represent and have fought for since day one," Gal-On said. "Meretz needs to sit in the Opposition together with Labor and to build its infrastructures from scratch. Horowitz agreed. "We, the Left camp, need to make an in-depth examination of ourselves and see how we can grow again," he said. "During the next Knesset we must promote matters we believe in, such as social justice, education and environment." Horowitz said he thought that it was wrong to talk about "political decapitations" so soon after the elections, when things were still unclear and sensitive. "We need to think how we can rebuild the camp and bring to it as many people who share our values and point of view," he said.