One recent comment on this blog has noted a Haaretz article that quotes a study critiquing the finances and political functioning and future of the Meretz-Yahad/ Democratic-Israel party. This has been seized upon with some glee by left-wing opponents of Israel, as if the supposed demise of this progressive peace-oriented party would be good for the Palestinian people whom they claim to champion. It’s probably been noted with pleasure by the Zionist right as well, but happily I haven’t heard from this quarter.
One criticism had to do with the very small share of the Israeli-Arab (or Israeli-Palestinian) vote that Meretz garners. This is a challenge, but readers should understand that Israel has three political blocs that are basically Arab parties (two are entirely Arab in orientation and a third is officially bi-national but mostly Arab). Longstanding arrangements and loyalties exist in various Arab communities that cause a substantial number of Arab voters to support Labor, Likud and even (at times) the National Religious Party.
Moreover, Meretz’s disinclination to join a government coalition with which it has principled differences (including the current Kadima-led government that it’s been invited to join more than once), means that it has no favors to offer supporters which come from being in the government. In the past, and probably still today, Labor, Likud and the NRP have garnered Arab votes because of such favors or the prospect of such favors.
This problem does not have to do with any disinclination by Israeli members of Meretz to refer to Arab Israelis as “Palestinian citizens of Israel” (notwithstanding the belief of our frequent kibbitzer and critic, Ted). Meretz activists are usually as PC in their nomenclature as leftists are in this country. Moreover, Meretz is both a Zionist party, endorsing the view that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, and a bi-national party that advocates the promise of Israel’s declaration of independence for equality under the law for all of its citizens. Toward this end, Meretz practices affirmative action for Arab members. A seventh Knesset seat would have automatically gone to an Israeli Palestinian.
We’ve inquired with our contacts at the World Union of Meretz about that study reported in Haaretz. It was more or less an independent initiative of a Meretz member, not an authorized party document. Though it contains some valid criticisms, its methods were questionable. For example, Jumas (the new party leader, Chaim Oron) was quoted in Haaretz as saying that the report examined the party as if it were a money-making business, not a political party.
The parts that got reported in Haaretz were made to look “juicier” by taking them out of context. The Meretz debt is well under control (“the banks loves us,” we were told, because the party is scrupulous in paying off its loans on schedule), and is actually quite small when compared to the debt that’s been run up by other parties in Israel. The party was nowhere near bankruptcy, they said, and the financial recovery plan instituted in 2004 is being adhered to.