Current AffairsIsrael

Why I’m Voting for Meretz

The Hebrew version of this blog post can be found here.

The nice thing about blogging for fun – unlike my “day job” where I blog for profit – is I’m free to say what I want and don’t have to worry if it costs me readers. I usually do lose a few readers when I post something blatantly political.

Israeli elections are on Tuesday. For the second time in my life I get to help choose the next government of Israel.

As of the polls yesterday – four days before the election – 15% of Israelis were undecided which party to vote for out of the 34 choices. Only about half of the 34 are likely to actually pass the threshold to make it into the Knesset, but that leaves a lot of parties to choose from.

My vote is going to Meretz. And I am writing because I want to encourage anyone who thinks the current government is a disaster, leading Israel on a path to international isolation to join me.

Meretz is the only party that has principles I support that actually stays true to its principles and is not “ego driven.” It’s sort of ironic – as a rabbi, the party that I believe is most in line with genuine Jewish values – the values of peace, respect for others, concern for others, etc. – is not any of the ostensibly “religious” parties, but a party associated with the secular left.

Here is my view of the Israeli political spectrum:

  • I can’t imagine anyone who’s not haredi voting for one of the haredi parties. They exist to support the haredi community, period. All they want is more tax dollars for their yeshivas.
  • Habayit Hayehudi openly calls for an apartheid state. See Shaul Magid’s clear analysis here.
  • Shas is blatantly racist. Disgusting. For more, click here.
  • Likud is a disaster. Instead of reaching out to the Palestinians to make a peace deal, after the UN recognizes Palestine as a non-member state, Netanyahu says “screw you, world!” by building more settlements, including threats to build in the most inflammatory area, E1. For the first time in memory European countries recall their ambassadors for “consultations.” Plenty of places to read more. Try this for an example.
  • Then there are the four so-called “center-left” parties. Labor/Yachimovich, Kadima/Mofaz, Yesh Atid/Lapid, Hatnuah/Livni. They are all pathetically the same. Kadima – the largest party in the current government, entered the government with 29 seats, will now be lucky to break the threshold and have ANY seats. None of them have any principles that differentiate one from the other. They all sort of want peace, would rather the haredi didn’t run religious life, but they are all driven by the egos of their leaders. Mofaz who joined the government for about a month and holds on the tattered, shredded remains of Kadima; Livni whose ego prevented her from joining Netanyahu’s government four years ago now wants another shot; Yachimovich “Labor was never a party of the left” scraping for votes by saying whatever she thinks will help; Lapid who is a poor echo of his father forms a party without even a fig leaf of democracy – he’s party head for life and makes the party’s list up based on who he likes on any given day.
  • Other choices include Hadash (Communist), the Arab parties, and the fringe parties such as the Pirate Party and the Green Leaf party, none of which I can take seriously.
  • And then there is Meretz: the only remaining party of the Zionist left, committed to a two state solution, committed to ending the haredi monopoly on religious life in Israel, the only party left of Habayit Hayehudi that says what it means and means what it says

The Meretz website has a Q&A session with Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On which is the best thing I’ve seen in English for laying out the party’s positions. The full interview can be read here. A summary of key points follows:

  • Peace process: “Meretz believes that reaching an agreement with Mahmoud Abbas should be Israel’s top strategic priority. The window of opportunity for a two-state solution is closing, and time is running out – unless we reach a deal with Abbas, who is the most moderate Arab leader we can find, we will have to deal with the rise of fundamentalist forces. To prevent that, we must move ahead with the peace process.” Also see Meretz’s Four Point Plan for peace.
  • Universal service: “Meretz is in favor of egalitarian service – civilian or military – while recognizing the individual’s right not to serve for conscientious reasons. If someone can’t or doesn’t want to serve in the army, they can give back to society in the form of some kind of community service.”
  • Equality: “Meretz believes in equality, gender equality included, and it must be more than just formal. It has to create an egalitarian reality as well.”

There are some people who will say there is no point in voting for a party that has very little chance of being in the ruling coalition. Gal-On had some interesting points on that topic as well:

Meretz doesn’t consider the opposition as political exile, but as a mission. In the outgoing Knesset, Livni’s party had 28 MKs, but I was the head of the opposition for all practical purposes. With just three MKs, we passed 27 bills, and were awarded the best lawmakers in labor rights, environmental and gender equality legislation. In addition, we fended off some of Likud’s anti-democratic legislation, that received backing from quite a few Kadima MKs.

Unless you happen to be a fan of one of the Israeli politicians heading a party – and I have trouble imagining anyone has respect for any of these politicians who consistently put their egos ahead of the national interest – the only real choice left of Habayit Hayehudi is Meretz.

And who knows? With polls saying the left – right split is 63/57 – and 15% of the voters are still undecided, three days before election day – it’s possible there will be a surprise. It’s a slim chance, but there’s a chance that a Netanyahu government could be blocked. If you look at what Meretz manages to accomplish in the opposition, think of what they could get done if they were in the government!


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *