Meretz's Zahava Galon
Meretz's Zahava Galon Flash 90

Is the far-left Meretz party on the verge of a breakup? Senior members say that amidst growing infighting, the party is weighing a plan to dissolve Meretz and restore its predecessors, the Ratz and Mapam parties.

Once a major force in Israeli politics with a dozen seats in the Knesset and power ministerial positions including the Education Ministry and Communications Ministry portfolios, since the 1990s Meretz has declined to just five seats and has not been a member of any government since 2001.

Now, internal pressure threatens to tear the standard-bearer of Israel’s progressive-left asunder and mark the end of Meretz’s 25-year existence.

According to a report in Israel Hayom Tuesday, efforts within Meretz to depose Chairwoman Zahava Galon have divided the party along factional lines, pitting members of now defunct Ratz and Mapam movements against one another.

Meretz, which was formed in 1992, was the political union of the Ratz: Movement for Civil Rights and Peace party - a small, radical-left faction led by Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid – with the secularist Shinui party and Mapam, one of the two Labor factions in the early years of the state before its merger with Mapai. Shinui broke away in 1997, reestablishing itself as an independent party.

Galon, whose leadership of the party is likely to be challenged in upcoming internal elections, was a member of the Ratz movement prior to the formation of Meretz, and according to the report, draws much of her strength from former Ratz members.

Efforts to oust Galon are reportedly being led by MK Ilan Gilon and other members of the Mapam wing of the party. Gilon has publicly distanced himself from claims that he is leading the effort to depose Galon as party chief.

With the party’s central committee set to vote on a proposal to advance the primary election next Sunday, both sides are preparing to battle for control of the party.

Should she fail in her effort to block early elections, Galon warned that “All options are on the table.”

At the same time, some senior party members are weighing plans to break up Meretz, restoring the Ratz and Mapam factions.

“I’m advocating for open primaries, but there are some in the party who are pushing for a vote within a small group [inside Meretz], leaving Meretz fighting for its life,” said Galon.