Our Israeli khaver, Avshalom (Abu) Vilan, MK, has released a bombshell in calling for his own Meretz party to merge with Labor. Not unexpectedly, this has not made him popular within the Meretz Knesset caucus. Abu may have had the misfortune of being a premature prophet. He also may have committed a tactical error in raising this publicly at this time, especially with Labor looking so weak in the wake of the Lebanon war and Meretz seeming to be holding its own. On the other hand, Labor’s weakness may be precisely the window of opportunity needed by Meretz to begin a process that would forge a reinvigorated and unified Zionist left in Israel.
MK Avshalom Vilan, representative of the kibbutzim in Meretz, is calling for a unification of Meretz and Labor. “Meretz as a party has spent itself and must cease to exist as an independent entity and join up with the Labor Party,” Vilan wrote in “HaDaf HaYarok,” the kibbutz movement newspaper. According to Vilan, Kadima is a dead horse, and a few khaverim should be brought back from it, and unite forces between [Labor and Meretz] in order to create a single front. “When I look at the political map, we point the way, but we’re not on it.” Vilan added: “We’re always right, but always alone and don’t influence processes.”
About a month ago, Maariv first publicized the initiative to unify the two parties, which emanated from the kibbutz representatives in the two parties. But that did not diminish the anger this evening when Vilan published his letter. Most of the anger at Vilan came from the members of his party, who are fuming about the initiative.
Meretz faction chair, MK Zehava Galon, sharply criticized Vilan, saying he wasn’t relevant. “Meretz is more relevant than ever. Its necessity is clear, against the background of Labor’s failures in all spheres. But in Meretz there are elements who are not relevant, since they view themselves as a pale appendage of the Labor Party”.
The assessment in Meretz was that if there will eventually be any unification between the parties, it will be when the historic remnants of Mapam, the Kibbutz Artzi wing in Meretz, will become part of Labor. “The entire party will not unite with Labor,” said a senior figure in Meretz. “Maybe a small part of the Kibbutz Artzi. Meretz will continue to exist, and if Abu wants to leave, he’s invited to do so, and the sooner the better.” It should be noted that when Amir Peretz was elected to lead Labor, ex-Meretz Chairman Yossi Sarid claimed that the differences between the parties had blurred, and that a union between them should be sought.
Vilan has been roundly criticized by senior Meretz officials. “Abu needs to cause a provocation so that they know he exists,” said a high-ranking party members. “He’s ‘Left-Light’. Whoever was elected on behalf of Meretz and says such a thing is kicking the people who brought him into Knesset”. Voices in Meretz also said Abu’s call is “stupefying, just at the time when the Labor Party is in a tough spot and losing the trust of the public, while Meretz is keeping its strength.”
Haim Oron, the senior representative of the kibbutzim in Meretz, who is very popular in the party, said this is not the time to deal with the next elections. “I don’t understand why Abu is bringing up this issue at this time and what he wants. It doesn’t make sense… The last elections and recent events proved that Meretz is a stable element that talks about peace moves and changing social priorities. That’s the job of Meretz. When the political picture becomes more clear, we’ll discuss options,” said Oron.