Sarid quits Meretz leadership [archive]

Archive: January 30, 2003

After seven years at the helm of Meretz, Yossi Sarid confirmed his resignation on Wednesday after the party lost nearly half its Knesset seats on Tuesday. He intends to remain in the Knesset. Meretz is expected to hold six seats in the 16th Knesset, according to the preliminary results, compared with the 10 it had in the 15th. Sarid sent a letter of resignation to Meretz director Haim Oron, who presented it at a meeting of the faction. Sarid did not attend the meeting. In the letter, Sarid said his decision is 'final,' adding that he had explained his reasons fully after the results were predicted on Tuesday night. At that gathering, he said he would 'take responsibility' for the poor result. At least three current MKs - Mossy Raz, Naomi Chazan, and Hosniya Jabarra - lost their seats, and Ilan Gilon is also unlikely to return when the results are final. The party's MKs decided to call on Sarid to reconsider his decision and to continue to serve as leader. But he responded that 'while he respects their requests, this time he will have to refuse.' The faction decided to move ahead with organizational plans to establish the social democratic party. Before the election, Meretz officially announced that it would establish the bloc. Yossi Beilin, who joined Meretz after failing to win a safe spot on the Labor list, is the main force behind the new party. However, he refused to consider the idea of competing for the Meretz leadership. Meretz No. 3 Ran Cohen was the only party member who suggested he may compete for the leadership. Beilin called on Sarid to remain as leaders, saying it would be a 'mistake' for him to leave the job at this time. But he said Sarid promised that despite the resignation he would be an integral part of the establishment of the social democratic party. Most Meretz MKs did not blame Sarid for the failure at the polls, blaming voters and the Labor Party instead. But MK Zehava Gal-On did say she had been unhappy with the party's campaign, but had kept her criticism to herself. She said Meretz had been punished with the entire Left for Labor's membership in the national-unity government. Beilin said that like Meretz, the entire Left had failed to prove to the public that peace could be reached with the Palestinians. Raz said he had no criticism of the campaign and the fact that the party did not mention the peace process. 'Peace is not the issue now, but ending the war and halting the expansion and financing of settlements,' he said. Raz, who is No. 8 on the list, said his party was defeated because the 'people do not want to stop the war.' Gilon said he is able to accept the decision of the voters, but not Sarid's decision to resign. He said that a leader should resign only when he had made mistakes. Sarid assumed leadership of Meretz in 1996, and the party lost three seats in the Knesset that year, after it peaked at 12 in 1992.