May 17, 2020
To the Meretz leadership:
These are indeed grim days for those of us who actively support progressive change in Israel. Between Covid-19, the swearing in of the new rightwing government, and the likelihood of imminent Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank, it is hard to retain optimism that needed change will be attainable at any time soon. With that said, we stand with you, reiterating our strong support and commitment to Meretz. The work ahead is more important than ever before.
The undersigned are the officers and members of the Board of Directors of Partners for Progressive Israel; many of us have been active for decades in the struggles for peace and social justice for Israel, working both in Israel and in the American Jewish community. Some of us are Israeli citizens as well, who grew up in or have lived for years in Israel. We understand the reality on the ground.
We are writing to express our strong support for a decisive effort to increase Jewish-Arab political partnership in Meretz that would embody the values of a shared democratic society. This is not a retreat from our ideals of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, but a necessary step towards their fulfillment; a recognition of the reality that Arab Israelis are partners with Jewish Israelis in the struggle to change Israel’s current ruinous course.
We reject criticism that a political partnership between Jews and Arabs betrays Meretz’s Zionist roots. We fully recognize that there are sins as well as glorious accomplishments of our forebears; decisions that must be regretted as well as those that should be celebrated. But going forward, both political reality and basic morality dictate the importance for Meretz to create a model for a viable political structure that will appeal to Jews and Arabs alike, and that will work towards a state based on democracy, peace, equality, and an end to the occupation.
Election after election we have seen the failure of parties claiming to represent the “center.” Now that Meretz is set on the path of rebuilding itself and creating a true alternative to the current political direction, a new orientation is imperative if the Left is ever to regain a significant place in Israeli politics. Engaging all parts of Israeli society is essential. Strengthening and deepening the relationship with the Joint List, as well as with those Arab citizens of Israel already affiliated with Meretz, are initial steps. Both Arab and Jewish leaders need to play an integral role in the party’s decision-making.
While there will be challenges in this rebuilding, we want you to know that you have our full support in fighting to restore democratic practices and for creating a viable alternative on the Left. As we have stood with you for all these years, we will continue to partner with you on this difficult journey towards a Jewish and democratic Israel as envisioned by its founders and set out in the Declaration of Independence.
We look forward to hearing from you and working together for a better future.
Paul Scham, President Leonard Grob, Vice-President
Karen Shapiro, Vice President Arieh Lebowitz, Vice President
Sam Fleischhacker, Secretary Mark Gold, Treasurer
David Abraham Rabbi Israel Dresner
Peter Eisenstadt Ayala Emmett
Evelyn Gelman Gili Getz
Todd Gitlin Gil Kulick
Rabbi Andrea London Lilly Rivlin
RESPONSES TO THE MERETZ LEADERSHIP LETTER
First allow me, on behalf of Meretz, to congratulate you for your most important initiative. As we invest in our mutual relations on the basis of Zionism and Israeli-diaspora ties, it is essential that we are involved in each other’s challenges and share our visions and perspectives.
I strongly adhere to the desire for a Jewish-Arab coexistence and equality in Israel. As we define Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation, we should always bear in mind the fact that there are Israeli citizens who are not Jewish and must enjoy full civil equality.
Therefore it is Meretz’s mission, and always was, to fight racism and discrimination, and to defend and promote civil rights. Parliamentary cooperation, political partnerships, and firstly strong actions on the grassroots level are not only welcomed but rather essential for all the political factors.
Our most urgent common challenge is preventing the annexation of settlements in the west bank and the deprivation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This catastrophe is enthusiastically encouraged by President Trump and his Middle eastern staff. Unfortunately the US has become the major international power advocating annexation. We need your decisive help in order to tackle this disastrous plan.
We are working here Jews and Arabs, hand in hand, to put an end to the occupation and bring about peace and prosperity for all. But since the main pressure is coming from America, we yearn for your active involvement. I do believe that together we can win this. That will be a tremendous achievement.
My dear friends I thank you for your continuous support and I wish you all a quick recovery from the Corona crisis. Let’s hope that we can all meet soon in Jerusalem.
MK Nitzan Horowitz
Chairperson of Meretz
Thank you Paul and all friends on PPI.
I strongly agree with your words and believe that our mission is to go along that path. Jewish-Arab partnership is not only the right and just path for Meretz, it is the right and just vision for the Israeli left and for Israel. It is the way to ensure full democratic citizenship and to fulfill our premise of equality and justice. Moreover, from political view, it is the only way to win a majority in Israeli society.
I promise to do all in my power to lead toward that inspiring vision.
Thank you again and all the best to you and your families.
Tamar Zandberg, MK
First and foremost, I wish to thank the PPI for its longstanding support and partnership, it is of the highest importance that we maintain our ties with partners abroad, in an increasingly golbalized world.
I would also like to thank you for your remarks. There are many thoughts and disscussions and different views on what would be the right course of action. I rest assured that whichever path we take, our dialouge and cooperation will continue.
Secretary General, Meretz
Dear Paul & friends at PPI,
First, let me use this opportunity to thank you for your endless support to Meretz. We cherish this partnership which is a huge asset for Meretz.
There is no doubt that on the background of the recent (and unfortunately not surprising) collapse of the alternative to Netanyahu, which happened because of racism within the ranks of the Blue & White faction, and even with in one of the MKs on our list, Ms. Levy Abekasis, Meretz should emphasize and hoist the flag of Jewish-Arab partnership.
Not only is it the ideological right thing to do, it is also the politicly smart thing to do. The last year and three election cycles proved that much like in the US, where Democrats cannot get into power without the Black & Latino votes, there isn’t any path for a change in government in Israel without the Arab vote. It is Meretz’s destiny to serve as the bridge for preventing another de-legitimization of a political clear majority because of the fact that Arabs are part of it.
Part of the plan I presented to the Meretz Executive Board upon being elected as its Chair several weeks ago was a strategic process the Board will lead, to examine how to promote our vision into political action. I will very much welcome your input and ideas on what we should do. There is only one guideline: an open mind!
Looking forward to continue our conversation.