The left-wing religious Meimad party has decided to leave Labor and run on its own in the elections, with Labor-dropout Minister Without Portfolio Ami Ayalon at the helm.
It is also considering a run together with the Greens environmentalist party, and a merger with the radical left-wing Meretz has also not been ruled out.
Founded in 1988 by Rabbi Yehuda Amital, then the Dean of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Meimad thus continues its interesting ideological trek. It leaders endorsed the National Religious Party prior to the 1996 elections, but broke away from the NRP in 1998. It became an independent political party in 1999, and has run together with Labor on the One Israel list since then.
Over the past few weeks, both Labor and Meimad realized that the traditional reserved spot for Meimad leader Rabbi Michael Melchior could no longer be assured, because of Labor’s dwindling support as revealed in the polls. The most recent polls show Labor receiving only 8 Knesset seats, compared to the 19 it won in each of the last two Knesset elections.
Meimad and Meretz have been in contact of late, as were Ayalon and Meretz, and it has not yet been ruled out that the two parties will run together.
Meimad is also considering running with the Greens party, which received the highest vote tally in the last elections among parties that did not pass the minimum vote threshold. The Greens received some 47,600 votes, compared with the qualifying threshold of 62,742 (2% of all valid votes).
Melchior: Nine Bad Years in Labor
The decision to run with Ayalon was made on Thursday night by the Meimad Council, which voted for it by a nearly unanimous majority. Rabbi Melchior, who will continue as party chairman but will run in the #2 slot, came out against his partnership with Labor: “I believed that a genuine partnership based on values would develop between us, for the good of the State. But during the nine years of our partnership, not once was there a deep discussion on integration, on Klal Yisrael, on the creation of a common narrative.” He did not explain why he awoke to this fact only now. He also did not mention that he had had informal contacts with Kadima about joining that party as well.
“A Jewish state is not measured by how many people observe Sabbath or wear Tefillin,” Rabbi Melchior said, “but rather by a rooted concern for others – for the converts, new immigrants, and foreign workers. If we have reached a point where Jewish pupils receive six times as much in resources as Arab pupils – this is not a Jewish state. We don’t even worry about our own children properly; 50% are under the poverty line because of a purposeful economic policy.”
Melchior has headed the Knesset environmental lobby, and has been instrumental in the Clean Air, “Polluters Pay,” Cellular Antennas Laws and other legislation.
Ayalon: We're a Strange Duo
Minister Ayalon said, “The partnership between myself and Rabbi Melchior is the strangest one in all of Israeli politics. I am a [former] Shabak head and Navy admiral, and secular, and Rabbi Melchior is an orthodox rabbi, a frequent guest with the Pope and with sheikhs in Cairo, and the flag-bearer of sane and fair Israeli-ism. If this combination can exist in our society and run together politically, there is true hope for Israel.”
Ayalon added that he has cooperated with Rabbi Melchior on several of the latter’s legislative initiatives in the past, including pre-military academies, a religious-secular educational stream, agunot [women whose husbands have left them without a Jewish divorce], and more.
In September 2007, after Ayalon lost his bid to become Labor Party Chairman to Ehud Barak, he was named a Minister Without Portfolio in the Olmert government - despite Ayalon's own previous protests that such a post is "immoral."