Meretz can indeed be likened to a shelf corporation: In the past 20 years, it has been operating like a company which is listed on the stock exchange but has been left with no activity.
The last time Meretz was part of the coalition, the prime minister’s name was Ehud Barak. That was back in 1999. Since then, the party has replaced its leaders several times, but they have all acted the same way: Seeking justice while being excluded from the basis of the political system.
During these years, the Right rose to power. Meretz turned itself into an irrelevant party. It played no part in the coalition assembly (not even in the Ehud Olmert era), and its voters watched all the budgets, decisions and governmental fat being handed over to the Right.
This also demonstrates the difference in world views between Zandberg and Meretz’s current leader, Zehava Galon, and her predecessors. Zandberg believes in real politics. She wants a share of the governmental cake. She wants budgets, control, government ministries. She wants to reintroduce Meretz’s policy into the Israeli governments’ circulation. She is willing to sit with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman as long as she can influence the government’s policy. This is a completely different approach than the one presented by Meretz’s leaders thus far.
Galon’s Meretz wanted to fix the world—in an all-or-nothing way. Zandberg’s Meretz will seek to improve the situation in Israel. If we don’t get it all, Zandberg will say, at least we’re getting something.
Zandberg closely watched Meretz transform from a party that crowns governments to a party occupying the back benches of the Knesset, while its mirror parties (the Haredim, Bayit Yehudi) took center stage and grabbed the decision-making wheel.
Ilan Gilon dropped out of the Meretz leadership race for medical reasons, Zehava Galon dropped out because the in-depth polls she conducted indicated that she had better cut her losses now and walk away in a dignified manner.
Galon and Gilon, two distinguished lawmakers, have been members of the Knesset since 1999. In recent years, they have competed against each other for the party’s leadership several times. Meretz is now undergoing the same process the Labor Party underwent with Avi Gabbay and the process Bayit Yehudi underwent with Naftali Bennett. Voters want something new, fresh, different. According to the polls, Zandberg is going to score a landslide victory in the party’s leadership election.
Her surprise decision to join the race created a huge swing in her direction and a yearning for young leadership. The future leader’s challenge will be to put an end to Meretz’s delegitimization and restore its status as a legitimate, influential factor in Israeli politics and in the leftist-centrist camp. There are many Labor and Yesh Atid voters who define themselves as left-wing but have refrained from voting for Meretz due to the realization that they might as well toss their vote in the garbage. If the party you vote for has no impact, what’s the point?
Zandberg still has to beat Avi Dabush, Avi Buskila and Imri Kalman in the Meretz leadership race, but following Galon and Gilon’s withdrawal, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume the election has already been decided.