Far-Left Meretz Party Scared of Being Left Out

Party worried as Labor-Hatnua union steals its thunder in targeting Netanyahu, dropping polls hint at possible threshold blockage.

Ari Yashar ,

Zehava Galon at Tel Aviv Meretz parade
Zehava Galon at Tel Aviv Meretz parade
Ben Kelmer/Flash 90

The radical leftist Meretz party, which in roughly thirty years has injected its concept of a two-state solution into mainstream Israeli political discourse from the extreme left fringe it started as, is apparently afraid that it may disappear in the coming elections.

According to Walla!, members of the party - which voted to let pro-Hamas Arab MK Hanin Zoabi run - are concerned that due to the recent union of Labor and Hatnua into the "Zionist camp" and the call by Labor and Likud for a race between the two major parties, they made fade and find themselves out of the Knesset.

The coming March 17 elections are a struggle for survival for Meretz according to the Hebrew-language site, with the party frightened it will fall as it did in 2009 elections when it got a mere three seats. Under the threshold percentage raised by the outgoing coalition such a showing would not be enough to get in.

Meretz, headed by MK Zehava Galon, appears to have good reason to worry.

Labor just recruited as a campaign strategist Reuven Adler, who in 2009 succeeded in pulling Meretz voters to Tzipi Livni's Kadima party on the slogan "Tzipi or Bibi," referencing Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu's nickname. Livni currently is head of Hatnua, which as noted is running with Labor.

In those 2009 elections, Adler's steering guided Kadima to 28 seats, outpacing Likud's 27, but Netanyahu was given first crack at forming a coalition due to his higher likelihood of succeeding and support from other parties.

Limited comeback reaching a wall?

After Kadima crumbled and Livni fled to form Hatnua, Meretz made a comeback in 2013 gaining six seats.

In the months after those elections amid leftist disappointment that Livni and Yair Lapid had joined Netanyahu's coalition, polls gave Meretz as many as 12 seats, matching its record from 1992 ahead of the Oslo Accords the following year, a figure it has never repeated.

However, the reason for Meretz's success in 2013 is seen as being because it was the only non-Arab leftist party that ruled out a coalition with Netanyahu, running on the slogan "your vote is safe against Bibi."

Now with the Labor and Hatnua union that has designs to replace Netanyahu, the "Zionist camp" has apparently stolen Meretz's thunder, and Meretz has dropped in polls, steadily getting five and just this week four in two separate polls after getting solid sixes weeks ago, and even seven once or twice.

How has Meretz been responding to the threat on its continued existence in the Knesset? By claiming that Herzog, Livni and Netanyahu will form a unity government the day after elections and trying to scare its radical leftist voters back home.

This argument has proven very weak given that both Likud and Labor have repeatedly ruled out a unity government between them.

But recently the party has only been holding events in the central coastal region, neglecting the so called periphery and severely limiting its reach in the struggle for survival.