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Photo: Uriel Hershko
Beilin - will he quit?
Photo: Uriel Hershko
Top Meretz officials slam Beilin
Frustrated leftist party leaders lash out at Meretz chairman during tense meeting in Tel Aviv; party official: Merger with Labor not out of the question

Top Meretz officials convened in Tel Aviv Wednesday afternoon amid widespread frustration and anger over election results, which gave the party a mere four Knesset seats.

 

Party Chairman Yossi Beilin, who was the target of much criticism in Meretz and whom many hold responsible for the poor showing in the

vote, tried to open the meeting by discussing future coalition talks, but was immediately subjected to a scathing attack by colleagues.

 

"I suggest you come to grips with what's going on!" former Knesset Member Ilan Gilon and number eight on the party's Knesset list told Beilin. "This was a disaster!" continued Esawi Frag, number seven on the party list and representative of the Arab sector, where the party won a dismal 1.4 percent of the votes.

 

Lieberman interview blasted

 

Beilin attempted to calm tensions and said he was "taking responsibility" for the situation.

 

"What does that mean?" MK Zahava Gal-On asked, and Beilin replied he was not planning on resigning.

 

"Then how does taking responsibility manifest itself?" Gal-On inquired.

 

During the party's election campaign, senior party members have on several occasions expressed outrage over some of Beilin's strategic decisions, including a joint interview the chairman gave Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth with Israel Our Home leader Avigdor Lieberman.

 

During the interview, Beilin spoke of the personal friendship he shared with the staunch rightist leader.

 

Some observers believe the interview cost the party at least one Knesset seat after alienating many upset Meretz voters.

 

Meretz's former leader Shulamit Aloni was also furious over the interview, and told Ynet on Wednesday: "I have criticism against and anger at Beilin for giving Lieberman legitimization. Perhaps he doesn't understand what racism is."

 

'Beilin should resign'

 

Earlier, some Meretz officials called on Beilin to quit, following the leftist party's disappointing showing in the 2006 elections.

 

Meretz, which on Tuesday night was still hoping to get the five mandates forecasted by exit polls, woke up on Wednesday to discover it has lost one expected Knesset seat, winning only four mandates in the elections.

 

"Beilin is responsible. Four mandates means we not only failed to preserve what we had, but rather, lost a third of our strength," a source at the party said. Senior party member confirmed that there were those in Meretz who believe the party head should resign, but added he was unlikely to quit because that would be "out of character."

 

However, references to Beilin among party members were quite negative.

 

"We encountered many people who said, we believe in Meretz but we will not vote for you because of Beilin. People didn't want him or his leadership," a Meretz activist explained.

 

However, in a conversation with Ynet on election night, Beilin himself denied the possibility he will be dismissed or called on to resign.

 

"I consider these five mandates an exemplary non-failure, and I think I contributed to this non-failure," he stated.

 

Merger with Labor in cards?

 

Meretz's heads will convene Wednesday for a meeting to discuss the disappointing election results and "draw conclusions," in a session expected to feature an unpleasant atmosphere.

 

Some in the party were apparently so stunned by the poor showing that they have began wondering whether Meretz's raison d'etre was not lost and it was time to consider a merger with the Labor party.

 

Knesset Member Haim Oron, number two on the party's list, said he did not rule out such a merger.

 

"It's possible such a union should be discussed, as the differences between the partied are very small and such merger may be much more effective," he said.

 

"Perhaps we can create a new situation together, this doesn’t have to be a discussion on Meretz's end of the road, but maybe about the beginning of a new way," he said.

 


First published: 29.03.06, 18:37
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