Search and Hit Enter

The demise of the Meretz party

Most opinion-polls are predicting that in the upcoming elections, the extreme-Left party Meretz will fail to win any seats in the Knesset for the first time since 1992.

The real question is not why it is due to fail now, but rather how Meretz survived for as long as it did. Because Meretz is a party whose very existence betrays its own ideology.

Meretz was formed back in 1992, ahead of the elections of that year, as an amalgam of three parties: Mapam, Ratz, and Shinui.

Mapam, the acronym for Mifleget ha-Po’alim ha-Me’uchedet (United Workers’ Party), goes back to the earliest days of Israeli independence: in Israel’s first elections ever (25th January 1949) they won 14.7% of the popular vote, giving them 19 seats and making them the second biggest party in the Knesset, second only to David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai (which received 35.7% of the vote, giving them 46 seats).

Mapam’s ideology was Marxist-Leninist, and like virtually all Marxist-Leninist parties throughout the world, Mapam was slavishly devoted to the Soviet Union.

This was at a time when the dictator of the Soviet Union was the bloodthirsty tyrant Joseph Stalin y”sh; when the Soviet Union was liquidating its own citizens in their millions in prisons and in forced-labour camps, in purges, and through mass-starvation.

It was a time when all Soviet citizens were persecuted, but Jewish citizens even more harshly.

It was a time when the Soviet Union was arming, training, and financing half the Arab world in its ceaseless war of attempted genocide against Israel.

It was a time when Mapam and its Hashomer Hatzair (“The Young Guard”) Kibbutzim would lead their annual May Day parades featuring vast placards with pictures of a smiling Joseph Stalin, usually accompanied by pictures of Marx and Lenin, sporting the caption, Abba Stalin, Shemesh ha-Ummot (“Father Stalin, Sun of the Nations”).

(It was because of this ideology that Ben-Gurion excluded Mapam from the governing coalitions in the early years.)

In January 1969 Mapam merged with the Labour Party, then led by Levi Eshkol, to form the Ma’arach (Alignment).

Eshkol died shortly afterwards and was succeeded by Golda Meir, who led the Ma’arach to election victory in October of that year. With 46.2% of the popular vote, they received 56 seats in the Knesset, making the Ma’arach the biggest party ever in Israeli history.

Mapam ran as an independent party for the last time in 1988, when they received just 2.5% of the popular vote, giving them 3 seats in the Knesset.

Ratz (officially the Movement for Civil Rights and Peace) was founded by Shulamit Aloni, who split from the Ma’arach in 1973. In the elections that year, Ratz received 2.2% of the votes, giving them 3 seats in the Knesset.

Ratz’s ideology was an interesting combination of being socially extreme Left and economically centre-Left.

That is to say, they opposed Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, whether that Jewish identity was defined ethnically or religiously; they supported the creation of an ethnically-pure Arab Palestinian state in Judea-Samaria and Gaza; they openly sympathised with the most violent Arab terrorist gangs attacking Israel – not only the PLO, but also the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLP-General Command (an even more radical offshoot of the PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Maoists), the Hamas (Islamic fundamentalists), and others.

This all made Ratz socially extreme Left.

Nevertheless, Ratz also supported a partially liberal free-market economy, albeit with relatively high taxation, strict government controls over wages, government protection for workers’ rights, pensions, socialised health-care, and the like, making them economically centre-Left.

Ratz peaked in the 1988 elections, winning 4.3% of the vote, giving them 5 seats in the Knesset.

Shinui (“Change”), officially the Democratic Movement for Change, was founded by Amnon Rubinstein in 1974, appealing to Israel’s emerging and growing middle class.

Rubinstein, a man with brilliant intellect, with a PhD in Law from the prestigious London School of Economics, later a professor of law in Tel Aviv University, came from a Revisionist Zionist background – that is to say, Right-wing, a supporter of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Beitar, which with independence morphed into Menachem Begin’s Herut Party, the ancestor of today’s Likud.

Shinui began as a secular Zionist centre-Right party, both socially and economically. In the 1977 elections, led by Yigael Yadin, they received 11.6% of the vote, giving them 15 seats, and joined the Likud-led ruling coalition.

But Rubinstein opposed joining the Likud-led coalition, and therefore broke away, forming his own Shinui party. In the 1981 elections, Shinui under Rubinstein received 1.5% of the votes, giving them 2 seats in the Knesset.

Rubinstein subsequently led Shinui hard-Left socially, while remaining centre-Right economically.

That is to say, Shinui broadly agreed with the extremist Left-wing policies of Ratz and Mapam socially, while supporting a free-market economy with minimal government interference, making them economically centre-Right.

After much internal dissent and several defections, Shinui joined Mapam and Ratz in 1992 to form Meretz, an acronym which can be read as a word meaning approximately “energy”, “verve”, “vigour”.

At the time of the merger, Ratz had 5 seats, Mapam had 3 seats, and Shinui had 2 seats.

Then in the elections held on 23rd June 1992, the newly-formed Meretz, led by Shulamit Aloni, won 9.6% of the popular giving them 12 seats in the Knesset, the third biggest party (after Labour with 44 seats and Likud with 32).

Meretz was unabashedly Marxist-Leninist, extreme Left socially and economically.

There was a marginally more moderate faction within Meretz which still proclaimed itself to be Zionist, but the party itself never claimed to be Zionist, never using the term “Zionism” in its official broadcasts or literature.

And this is the reason that Meretz’s very existence was a betrayal of its Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Orthodox Marxism-Leninism posits that it is the economy that determines everything else.

That is to say, in order to control a country, it is necessary first of all to control the economy, before controlling its media, its education system, its judiciary, or any other organ.

To be sure, Marxism-Leninism demands complete and unchallengeable control over all organs of state in order to have complete control over every single citizen; but Marxism-Leninism can still compromise (a little, at least) on all other organs of state.

On the economy, ideologically pure Marxism-Leninism brooks no compromise whatsoever.

And so Meretz, a Marxist-Leninist party, betrayed its own ideology by its very existence: thee parties, all of which were Marxist-Leninist socially, but which nevertheless disagreed economically, ipso facto betrayed their own Marxist-Leninist ideological purity by collaborating with each other.

Maybe after almost 30 years, Meretz has [subconsciously?] recognised its betrayal of its own ideology.

Meretz’s main election advert shows not its own leaders, but rather Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Minister for Housing and Construction Ya’akov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), and Itamar Ben-Gvir, (Otzma Yehudit, running with the Religius Zionist party) with the caption “Without Meretz, he has 61”.

The “he” in this caption is of course Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and the “61” means a coalition of 61 Knesset seats, allowing Netanyahu to form the next government.

As an election-campaign advert, this seems curiously self-defeating.

Given Netanyahu’s popularity and status as the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history – indeed, among the longest-serving democratically-elected premiers anywhere in the world – this election-campaign advert actually serves Netanyahu, Litzman, and Ben-Gvir more than it serves Meretz.

This advert seems almost designed to convince the average Israeli voter – the voter who votes neither Meretz nor Religious Zionism, the voter who is somewhat centrist, who might be hesitating somewhere between Likud, Blue-and-White, Yesh Atid, and Yamina – to reject Meretz even more firmly.

So why is Meretz publishing such a self-defeating election campaign?

To this, I can suggest two possible answers:

The first is that Meretz and its activists live in a bubble so thoroughly impenetrable by reality that they are literally unaware of how popular Netanyahu and the Likud really are – set to receive almost twice as many votes of its nearest rival (about 31 seats, against 19 for Yesh Atid according to recent opinion polls by Kantar and by Smith).

The second answer is a mockingly cynical one, but maybe Meretz has been so far left for so long that they have become inspired by suicide bombers.

And so Meretz’s election campaign is their version of public suicide on the bill-boards of Israel’s buses, bus-stops, and shopping-malls.

Source: Daniel Pinner – Arutz Sheva

Header: Labor party leader Merav Michaeli speaks to press after casting her vote in the Labour primaries, in Tel Aviv on February 01, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90 )

Note: Merav Michaeli (Heb. מרב מיכאלי‎ was born on November 24, 1966, in Petah Tikva.

Her grandfather was the controversial Zionist leader Rudolf [Rezső] Kasztner who was accused of collaborating with the Nazis and assassinated in 1957.

In 2021, she was elected to lead the Israeli Labor Party. “The Labor party is still stuck in the mud and I have the mission of rescuing and rebuilding it,” Michaeli said.