Party’s Official Name: Meretz | מרצ
Leader: Zahava Gal-On
MKs in current Knesset: 3
Latest Haaretz poll: 4
Twenty years ago, the party of the Zionist left was formed by the unification of three parties, Ratz, Mapam and Shinui. The stunner of the 1992 elections, Meretz (vigor) gained 12 seats and served as a major coalition partner in Yitzhak Rabin’s government. Since then it has failed to repeat this success and, in 2009, Meretz dwindled to a mere three MKs. Zahava Gal-On, no. 4 on the list, remained outside the Knesset until previous leader Haim Oron resigned in March 2011. Earlier this year, she was elected the party’s new leader.
Gal-On has tried to reenergize the party’s ranks and its Knesset list reflects attempts to target urban constituencies as well as women and Israeli Arabs. Meretz’s lack of success reflects the shrinking of Israel’s traditional left, with most voters migrating either to the burgeoning political center or to non-Zionist, predominantly Arab, parties.
The fact that Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection is all but ensured and that Meretz is the only Zionist party to the Likud’s left which will not join his new coalition under no circumstances, should spur leftist voters to return to Meretz but polls have so far detected only a relatively small rise in the party’s fortunes.
Meretz was the only Zionist party to take the unpopular step of opposing the recent Gaza operation and advocated from the start against a ground offensive. Whether this will help them to climb in the electoral stakes or yet again leave them in uncompromising ideological isolation remains to be seen.