No. 12 on Meretz list quits over party's initial support for Gaza operation

Ibtisam Mara'ana, an Israeli-Arab filmmaker and No. 12 on the joint Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz Knesset list, announced Friday she is dropping her candidacy because the party supported the IDF operation in Gaza. Last Tuesday the party called to end the fighting in Gaza. But according to Mara'ana, it was too little, too late, "and didn't do enough to spare the lives of many Palestinians who cannot be brought back to life." Two weeks ago Meretz and Hatnua Hahadasha (The New Move) completed a merger aimed at bringing the Left new voters who would presumably identify with the wider arsenal of ideas the joint group promised to promote, including environmental issues and peace efforts. Mara'ana, 33, from Tel Aviv, represented Hatnua Hahadasha, which also received the third, the seventh and ninth slots on the joint list. She said Friday that her decision was final. "I joined Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz because I identified with the party's social and economic agenda. Meretz pretends to be the only left-wing party in Israel that also promotes equality and brings together men and women, Jewish and Arabs," she said. "I had asked Meretz to publish its political stances, but they didn't do it," she said. "Then the war in Gaza came and their agenda became clear - first they supported the military operation in Gaza. "The fact that they changed their minds and called for stopping all military efforts in Gaza can't bring back to life hundreds of dead Palestinians whose lives could have been spared," Mara'ana added. Mara'ana said that she understood that Meretz was in the midst of an election campaign and was looking to draw broader support. She said she also realized that party chairman Haim Oron and the list's No. 2, Ilan Gilon, live in communities that are under rocket attack, Kibbutz Lahav and Ashdod, respectively. "I can relate to their distress," she said. "On the other hand, no one consulted me or informed me about the decision to support the operation. I had to learn it from the media and that was upsetting." According to Mara'ana, "Meretz made the same mistake in the Second Lebanon War. First it supported the war and then it called on [the government] to stop it. I believe a party like Meretz that pretends to be the ultimate alternative for left-wing voters needs to be more sensitive to its Arab members," she said. "On the one hand, I am a loyal citizen of Israel, but on the other hand I can't support the violence against my Palestinian brothers." On Tuesday, Meretz called on the government to stop the bombardment of Gaza: "The Meretz directorate calls on the government to stop the shooting immediately, whether by international initiatives, direct talks or unilateral announcement of a limited truce... "Continuing the military operation, especially a ground operation, will lead to sinking in the swamp, this time in Gaza," the statement reads. "Meretz condemns Hamas's attacks on Israeli citizens and supports Israel's right to defend its residents. [But] there is not and cannot be a military solution to terror. We must continue and promote an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, now more than ever...," the statement continues. On Friday, the party confirmed Mara'ana's decision to leave the party but offered no further comment. However, a source in the party said he could understand her dilemma. "She joined a Left-Zionist party that doesn't deny Israel's right to defend its citizens, and got into a problematic situation. We can relate to her feelings and we understand her situation is far too complicated," the source said. As of Saturday night the party had not decided who will replace Mara'ana on the list.