I don’t see Meretz making strategic calculations in order to court votes but rather to advance a progressive agenda — uniquely without concern for achieving power in its own name. Change for the better is most likely to occur at this historical moment with a new prime minister selected by the Kadima party, without going to a general election that would most likely return Netanyahu to power. A very likely scenario is the imminent primary victory of a new leader of the Labor party (either Ami Ayalon or Ehud Barak) prompting an ultimatum to Kadima that either Olmert goes or Labor leaves the coalition forcing a new election; this should result in Olmert’s replacement by either Shimon Peres or Tzipi Livni — both more receptive than Olmert to making or addressing peace initiatives.
The following is from Meretz activist Susie Becher, inspired by views of the anti-Olmert rally that this Weblog featured about two weeks ago. I’m actually partial to the “anything but Bibi” school of thought that Susie deplores, but I respect her opinion enough to include it below:
I think Meretz is too preoccupied with who will head other parties and who will head the next government. Our public statements about the virtues of Livni or Peres and of Kadima vs. Likud portray to the public a party that lacks confidence in itself and its beliefs. This is also the message conveyed to the public by the stands the party has taken (or, rather, not taken) since the disengagement, when it backed Sharon, through the election campaign, when it ran with a slogan that conceded to Kadima before the race had begun, and up to the current crisis, when it is running scared from elections. When potential Meretz voters hear our leadership talk about hooking up with Labor or extolling Peres as the best person to head Kadima, they are likely to conclude that they might as well give their vote directly to one of those parties.
I don’t belong to the “anything but Bibi” school. The supposedly liberal-social government of Olmert and Peretz has:
(1) allowed the settlers to make pilgrimages to Homesh and establish new settlements, one right in the heart of Hebron
(2) lost two ministers (and may yet lose a prime minister) to corruption investigations and one to a sexual misconduct conviction
(3) taken a racist, extreme right-wing party in as a partner and handed it no less than the Iranian nuclear threat as its portfolio
(4) said “no” to negotiations with Syria
(5) killed hundreds in Gaza over the summer and is starving those who are left
(6) gone to war with Lebanon and lost… and the list goes on without my even having touched on the social-economic issues.
So what exactly is it that we’re afraid that Bibi will do?
I believe we need to highlight the ways in which we differ from the center parties rather than try to show how well we can blend in with them. I think Meretz repeatedly makes the mistake of taking the public’s pulse and acting accordingly. Some believe this is the way to win votes. I disagree. The public may like us better if we pussyfoot around, but the votes will go to those who have a clear message and who are not afraid to stand apart in order to deliver it.