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New Movement-Meretz
התנועה החדשה-מרצ
Leader Haim Oron
Founded 1992 (1992)
Headquarters Tel Aviv
Ideology Social democracy,
Civil libertarianism,
Green politics,
Labor Zionism
International affiliation Socialist International
European affiliation Party of European Socialists (observer)
Official colours Green, yellow
Seats in Knesset 3
Website
www.newmeretz.org.il
Politics of Israel
Political parties
Elections

The New Movement-Meretz (Hebrew: התנועה החדשה-מרצ‎), previously known as Meretz, then Yachad,[1] and then Meretz-Yachad (Hebrew: מרצ-יחד‎, Vitality - Together) is a left-wing,[2] Zionist, social democratic political party in Israel, which emphasizes the strive for peace, human rights, religious freedom and green politics[3].

Contents

History

Meretz was formed in 1992 prior to the elections by an alliance of three left-wing parties; Ratz, Mapam and Shinui, and was initially led by Ratz's chairwoman and long-time Knesset member Shulamit Aloni. The name "Meretz" (מרצ) was chosen as an acronym for Mapam (מפ"ם) and Ratz (רצ). The third party of the alliance wasn't reflected in its name, but was instead mentioned in the party's campaign slogan: "ממשלה עם מרצ, הכוח לעשות את השינוי" (A government with vigor [Meretz], the strength to make the change [Shinui]). Its first electoral test was a success, with the party winning twelve seats, making it the third largest in the Knesset. Meretz became the major coalition partner of Yitzhak Rabin's Labor Party, helping pave the way for the Oslo Accords. The party also picked up several ministerial portfolios; Aloni was made Minister of Education, though disputes over the role of religion in education meant she was moved out of the education ministry to become Minister Without Portfolio in May 1993. In June she became Minister of Communications and Minister of Science and Technology, a role that was later renamed Minister of Science and the Arts. Amnon Rubinstein became Minister of Energy and Infrastructure and Minister of Science and Technology and later Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport, whilst Yossi Sarid was named Minister of the Environment and Yair Tzaban Minister of Immigrant Absorption.

After the 1996 elections, in which Meretz lost a quarter of its seats, Aloni lost internal leadership elections to Yossi Sarid and retired. In 1997 the three parties officially merged into a single entity, though part of Shinui (under the leadership of Avraham Poraz) broke away to form a separate movement. Later in the Knesset session David Zucker also left the party to sit as an independent MK.

The 1999 elections saw the party regain some of its former strength, picking up 10 seats, including the first ever female Israeli Arab MK, Hussniya Jabara. Meretz were invited into Ehud Barak's coalition, with Sarid becoming Education Minister, Ran Cohen Minister of Industry and Trade, and Haim Oron Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, after Ariel Sharon beat Barak in a special election for Prime Minister in 2001, Meretz left the government.

On October 22, 2002, Meretz MK Uzi Even made history by becoming the first openly gay Member of Knesset, after Amnon Rubinstein retired. This created a vacancy and Even was next on the Meretz list. His term lasted less than three months, however, as the Knesset was dissolved in January, 2003. Even's entry to the Knesset was met by mixed reactions from the ultra-orthodox parties; Shas's Nissim Ze'ev was the harshest, saying Even "symbolized the bestialization of humanity," adding that he should be "hidden under the carpet" and banned from entering the Knesset.[4]

For the 2003 elections, Meretz were joined by Roman Bronfman's Democratic Choice. However, the party shrank again, this time to just six seats. Sarid immediately took responsibility and resigned from leadership, though he did not retire from the Knesset and continued serving as an MK, before stepping down prior to the 2006 elections.

In December 2003, Meretz was disbanded in order to merge with Yossi Beilin's non-parliamentary Shahar (Hebrew: שח"ר) movement. The original name suggested for the new party was Ya'ad (Hebrew: יעד, Goal), but was not used because it sounded like the Russian word for poison ("yad"), and it was feared that it might alienate Israel's one million Russian-speaking voters (although there had been two parties previously in Israel using the name - Ya'ad and Ya'ad – Civil Rights Movement, the latter ironically a forerunner of Meretz, they both existed before large-scale immigration from the Soviet Union). Instead, the name Yachad (Hebrew: יח"ד) was chosen. As well as meaning "Together", it is also a Hebrew acronym for Social-Democratic Israel (Hebrew: ישראל חברתית דמוקרטית, Yisrael Hevratit Demokratit).

The new party was established in order to unite and resuscitate the Israeli Zionist peace camp, which had been soundly defeated in the 2003 elections (dropping from 56 Knesset members in 1992 to 24 in 2003) following the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The party's purpose was to unite a variety of dovish Zionist movements with the dovish wing of the Israeli Labor Party. However, the efforts were largely unsuccessful as, except for the original Meretz, Shahar and Democratic Choice, no other movement joined the new party. It has suffered from declining popular interest in left-wing peace movements, as a result of the rise in Palestinian violence, and only 20,000 people are now registered members of the party, half the number who were prior to the 1999 party primaries.

In March 2004, Yossi Beilin was elected party leader, beating Ran Cohen, and started a two year term as the first chairman of Yachad. In July 2005 the party decided to change its name to Meretz-Yachad, because opinion polls revealed that the name Yachad was not recognisable to the Israeli public, and that they preferred the old name Meretz. The chairman Beilin opposed the motion to revert the name to Meretz and a compromise between the old and new names, Meretz-Yachad, was agreed upon.

However, in the 2006 election campaign the party dropped the Yachad part, running as just Meretz, under the slogan "Meretz on the left, the Human in the centre". Nevertheless, it failed to stop the party's decline, as they won just five seats. In 2007, Tsvia Greenfeld, sixth on the party list, became the first ever female Ultra-orthodox Knesset member, following Yossi Beilin's decision to retire from politics.

In the party leadership contest in late 2007 Beilin withdrew his candidacy after it became clear that Haim Oron was leading in the polls. Oron went on to win the internal elections held on 18 March 2008 with 54.5% of the vote, beating Ran Cohen (27.1%) and Zehava Gal-On (18.1%) to become Meretz's new chairman.[5]

Because Meretz had failed to attract voters disappointed with the Labor Party despite Labor's falling numbers in the ballot box, or even those who had voted for the Pensioners Party, an initiative was launched to broaden Meretz's representation. Polls show most such voters prefer Tzipi Livni's Kadima party, which is widely viewed as committed to pursuing peace with the Palestinians. In talks over assembling a government under her leadership, Livni arrived at terms of an agreement with Meretz, and even promised the party it could count on fielding two ministers. [1] [2] Many Meretz voters would also ultimately choose Kadima in 2009 elections.

On December 22, 2008, Meretz finalized its merger with Hatnua HaHadasha ("The New Movement") for the 2009 Israeli elections.[6] The alliance failed miserably, winning just three seats, with the left-wing bloc in general suffering a harsh blow in Israeli legislative elections in 2009.

Ideology

Meretz defines itself as a Zionist, Green, left-wing social democratic party. It has inherited Meretz's membership in the Socialist International. It sees itself as the political representative of the Israeli Peace movement, in the Knesset - as well as municipal councils and other local political bodies.

In the international media it has been described as left-wing, social democratic, dovish, secular, civil libertarian, and anti-occupation. Some view the party on the far-left of the Israeli political spectrum.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

After a dismal result for Meretz in 2009 elections, Meretz leader Haim Oron announced, "Based on the energies which I saw today as well, and the forces existing within us, we must overcome the difficult feeling we are experiencing this evening. We won't be annihilated," promising that Meretz will continue to be "a key element in the establishment of a Zionist dovish and humanistic Social-Democratic Left in the State of Israel. This vacuum has not been filled in these elections." [3]

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Principles

It emphasizes the following principles (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • Making Israel a social democratic welfare state.
  • Protecting workers' rights and fighting against their exploitation (especially, though not exclusively, in the case of foreign workers and immigrants).

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Meretz-Yachad's approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has abandoned the "securitist" approach of its predecessor Meretz and focused its criticism at the conduct of former PM Ariel Sharon and the government. The party was torn in whether to support Sharon's disengagement plan, though in November 2004, it announced that it would abstain in motions of no confidence in the Likud government in order to prevent the government from falling prior to the implementation of the plan. With the defection of Shinui from Ariel Sharon's government, Meretz-Yachad's decision helped Sharon to execute his plan.

Issues being debated internally

Issues that are still under debate in Meretz:

Current Knesset members

  1. Haim Oron
  2. Ilan Gilon
  3. Nitzan Horowitz

Meretz supporters abroad

A number of progressive Zionist organizations that share many of the ideas and ideals of Meretz-Yachad are affiliated with the Israel-based World Union of Meretz; this includes Meretz USA in the U.S. and the London-based Meretz UK, France's Cercle Bernard Lazare. The World Union of Meretz has representation in a number of organizations, such as the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund.

Meretz USA has joined with other progressive Zionists in the United States and Canada to form the Union of Progressive Zionists, a college student network, as well as the Jewish Academic Network for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Hashomer Hatzair, a progressive Zionist youth movement with branches in many countries, is informally associated with Meretz through its historic connection with Mapam.

See also

References

External links


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