Meretz (Hebrew: מֶרֶצ, lit. "Vigour") is a left-wing,
social-democratic, and green political party in Israel.
The party was originally formed in 1992 with the union of Ratz, Mapam,
Shinui and was at its peak in the 13th
Knesset between 1992 and
1996, during which it held 12 seats. At the 2015 legislative elections
the party won five seats.
Meretz is a secular party emphasising a two-state solution to the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict, social justice, human rights
(especially for ethnic and sexual minorities), religious freedom, and
The party is a member of the Progressive Alliance and Socialist
International, and is an observer member of the Party of European
2.1 Stated principles
3 Chairpersons (leaders)
Meretz supporters abroad
6 See also
8 External links
Meretz was formed in 1992 prior to the 1992 legislative elections by
an alliance of three left-wing political parties; Ratz,
Shinui, and was initially led by Ratz's chairwoman and long-time
Knesset member Shulamit Aloni. The name "Meretz" (מרצ) was
chosen as an acronym for
Mapam (מפ"ם) and Ratz (רצ). The
third party of the alliance wasn't reflected in its name, but was
instead mentioned in the party's campaign slogan: "ממשלה עם
מרצ, הכוח לעשות את השינוי" (A government with
vigor [Meretz], the strength to make the change [Shinui]). Its first
electoral test was a success, with the party winning twelve seats,
making it the third largest in the Knesset.
Meretz became the major
coalition partner of Yitzhak Rabin's Labor Party, helping pave the way
for the Oslo Accords. The party also picked up several ministerial
portfolios; Aloni was made Minister of Education, though disputes over
the role of religion in education meant she was moved out of the
education ministry to become
Minister Without Portfolio
Minister Without Portfolio in May
1993. In June she became Minister of Communications
and Minister of Science and Technology, a role that was later renamed
Minister of Science and the Arts.
Amnon Rubinstein became Minister of
Energy and Infrastructure and Minister of Science and Technology and
later Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport, whilst Yossi Sarid
was named Minister of the Environment and
Yair Tzaban named Minister
of Immigrant Absorption.
After the 1996 elections, in which
Meretz lost a quarter of its seats,
Aloni lost internal leadership elections to
Yossi Sarid and retired.
In 1997 the three parties officially merged into a single entity,
though part of
Shinui (under the leadership of Avraham Poraz) broke
away to form a separate movement. Later in the
Knesset session David
Zucker also left the party to sit as an independent MK.
The 1999 elections saw the party regain some of its former strength,
picking up 10 seats, including the first ever female
Israeli Arab MK,
Meretz were invited into Ehud Barak's coalition, with
Sarid becoming Education Minister,
Ran Cohen Minister of Industry and
Haim Oron Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Ariel Sharon beat Barak in a special Prime
Ministerial election in 2001,
Meretz left the government.
On 22 October 2002
Uzi Even made history by becoming the
first openly gay Member of Knesset, after
Amnon Rubinstein retired.
This created a vacancy and Even was next on the
Meretz list. His term
lasted less than three months, however, as the
Knesset was dissolved
in January 2003. Even's entry to the
Knesset was met by mixed
reactions from the ultra-orthodox parties; Shas's
Nissim Ze'ev was the
harshest, saying Even "symbolized the bestialization of humanity,"
adding that he should be "hidden under the carpet" and banned from
entering the Knesset.
For the 2003 elections,
Meretz were joined by Roman Bronfman's
Democratic Choice. However, the party shrank in representation again,
this time to just six seats. Sarid immediately took responsibility and
resigned from leadership, though he did not retire from the Knesset
and continued serving as an MK, before stepping down prior to the 2006
In December 2003
Meretz was disbanded in order to merge with Yossi
Beilin's non-parliamentary Shahar (שח"ר) movement. The original
name suggested for the new party was Ya'ad (יעד, Goal), but was
not used because it sounded like the Russian word for poison ("yad"),
and it was feared that it might alienate Israel's one million
Russian-speaking voters (although there had been two parties
Israel using the name – Ya'ad and Ya'ad – Civil
Rights Movement, the latter ironically a forerunner of Meretz, they
both existed before large-scale immigration from the Soviet Union).
Instead, the name Yachad (Hebrew: יח"ד) was chosen. As well as
meaning "Together", it is also a Hebrew acronym for Social-Democratic
Israel (Hebrew: ישראל חברתית דמוקרטית, Yisrael
The new party was established in order to unite and resuscitate the
Israeli Zionist peace camp, which had been soundly defeated in the
2003 elections (dropping from 56
Knesset members in 1992 to 24 in
2003) following the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The party's
purpose was to unite a variety of dovish Zionist movements with the
dovish wing of the Labor Party. However, the efforts were largely
unsuccessful as, except for the original Meretz, Shahar and Democratic
Choice, no other movement joined the new party. It
has suffered from declining popular interest in left-wing peace
movements, as a result of the rise in Palestinian violence, and only
20,000 people are now registered members of the party, half the number
who were prior to the 1999 party primaries.
In March 2004
Yossi Beilin was elected party leader, beating Ran
Cohen, and started a two-year term as the first chairman of Yachad. In
July 2005 the party decided to change its name to Meretz-Yachad,
because opinion polls revealed that the name Yachad was not
recognisable to the Israeli public, and that they preferred the old
name Meretz. The chairman Beilin opposed the motion to revert the name
Meretz and a compromise between the old and new names,
Meretz-Yachad, was agreed upon.
However, in the 2006 election campaign the party dropped the Yachad
part of its name, running as just Meretz, under the slogan "
the left, the Human in the centre". Nevertheless, it failed to stop
the party's decline, as they won just five seats. In 2007, Tsvia
Greenfeld, sixth on the party list, became the first ever female
Knesset member, following Yossi Beilin's decision to
retire from politics.
In March 2008, internal elections for the chairman of the party were
held. At an early stage, Yossi Beilin, Zehava Gal-On, and Ran Cohen
announced their bids. After
Haim Oron announced his bid in December
2007, Beilin withdrew his bid and announced his support for him. Oron
went on to win the internal elections held on 18 March 2008 with 54.5%
of the vote, beating
Ran Cohen (27.1%) and
Zehava Gal-On (18.1%) to
become Meretz's new chairman.
On 22 December 2008
Meretz finalized its merger with Hatnua HaHadasha
("The New Movement") for the 2009 Israeli elections.
The joint Meretz-Hatnua HaHadasha list ended up winning only 3 seats
in the elections. This electoral loss was largely attributed to
traditionally left-wing voters choosing to strategically vote for
Kadima, in an effort to get
Tzipi Livni to head the next government
Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud.
Following the party's failure in the 2009 legislative elections,
some of the party members called for the resignation of the party
Haim Oron and to give way for Zehava Gal-On.
Haim Oron indeed
Knesset on 23 March 2011 and later left the chairmanship
of the party. As a result, MKs Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon, and youth
activist Ori Ophir began campaigning to win the position of the party
chairman. The primaries were held on 7 February 2012 for the
position of the party's chairman;
Zehava Gal-On was elected as the
chairman with 60.6% of the votes, whilst
Ilan Gilon was second with
36.6%, and Uri Ofir was third with 2.8%.
In the 2013 legislative election held on 22 January 2013, Meretz
received 4.5% of the national vote, winning 6 seats.
On 8 December 2014,
Meretz signed a surplus-vote agreement with the
Labour Party for the upcoming 2015 legislative election, the
latter set to contest the election as the Zionist Union. On 19 January
Meretz held its primaries at a meeting of its 1,000-member
central committee in the
Tel Aviv Convention Center:
Zehava Gal-On was
re-elected party leader, whilst MK
Nitzan Horowitz chose not to stand
In the next election, preliminary results of the 2015 election
indicated that the party would be reduced she announced she would
resign as chairperson of
Meretz as soon as a successor is chosen, and
Knesset in order to open a place for Tamar Zandberg, the
party's fifth place candidate who appeared to have lost her seat.
Ilan Gilon and others urged Gal-On to reconsider her
decision. Once absentee and soldier ballots were counted, however,
Meretz gained a fifth seat negating the premise for Gal-On's earlier
announcement and she announced that she would continue as party
leader, saying: "
Meretz received a fifth seat from young
supporters, from Israeli soldiers, who raised the party's rate of
support. That allowed
Meretz to maintain its strength in terms of the
number of voters – some 170,000 – compared with the last election.
Under the circumstances and against all odds, that is a success."
Tamar Zandberg became the leader of
Meretz in 2018.
Meretz marchers at the International Human Rights March, Tel Aviv, 7
Meretz defines itself as a left-wing, social-democratic party. It sees
itself as the political representative of the Israeli Peace movement
Knesset – as well as municipal councils and other local
In the international media it has been described as left-wing,
social-democratic, dovish, secular, civil libertarian, and
The party emphasises the following principles (not necessarily in
order of importance):
Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state
solution as laid out in the Geneva Accord.
Freezing construction of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Human rights issues:
Struggle for the protection of human rights in the Israeli-occupied
Rights of minorities in
Israel (such as Israeli Arabs and foreign
workers), fight against discrimination, and support for affirmative
Women's rights and feminism.
Struggle for social justice:
Israel a social-democratic welfare state.
Protecting workers' rights and fighting against their exploitation
(especially, though not exclusively, in the case of foreign workers
Separation of religion and state, and religious freedom.
Liberal secular education.
Shulamit Aloni (1993–1996)
Yossi Sarid (1996–2003)
Yossi Beilin (2004–2008)
Haim Oron (2008–2011)
Zehava Gal-On (2012–2018)
Tamar Zandberg (2018–present)
Shulamit Aloni, Mordechai Virshubski, Ran Cohen, David Zucker, Yossi
Sarid (all Ratz), Haim Oron, Hussein Faris,
Yair Tzaban (Mapam),
Amnon Rubinstein (Shinui)
Shulamit Aloni, Ran Cohen, David Zucker, Yossi Sarid, Naomi Chazan,
Binyamin Temkin, Haim Oron, Walid Haj Yahia, Yair Tzaban, Anat Maor,
Avraham Poraz, Amnon Rubinstein
Naomi Chazan, Ran Cohen, David Zucker (left 17 March 1999), Yossi
Sarid, Haim Oron, Walid Haj Yahia, Anat Maor,
Avraham Poraz (left 17
January 1999), Amnon Rubinstein
Haim Oron (replaced by
Mossi Raz on 25 February 2000), Hussniya
Jabara, Zehava Gal-On, Naomi Chazan, Ran Cohen, Anat Maor, Amnon
Rubinstein (replaced by
Uzi Even on 31 October 2002), Yossi Sarid,
Avshalom Vilan, Ilan Gilon
Haim Oron, Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan, Ran Cohen, Yossi Sarid
Yossi Beilin (replaced by
Tzvia Greenfeld on 4 November 2009), Haim
Oron, Ran Cohen, Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan
Haim Oron (replaced by
Zehava Gal-On on 24 March 2011), Ilan Gilon,
Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon, Nitzan Horowitz, Michal Rozin, Issawi Frej,
Zehava Gal-On (replaced by
Mossi Raz on 22 October 2017), Ilan Gilon,
Issawi Frej, Michal Rozin, Tamar Zandberg
Meretz supporters abroad
A number of left-wing Zionist organizations that share many of the
Meretz are affiliated with the Israel-based World Union of
Meretz; this includes the London-based
Meretz UK, France's Cercle
Bernard Lazare, and the USA's Partners for Progressive Israel. The
World Union of
Meretz has representation in a number of organizations,
such as the
World Zionist Organization
World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund.
Hashomer Hatzair, a progressive Zionist youth movement with branches
in many countries, is informally associated with Meretz, although its
historic connection had been with Mapam.
American Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman, whose sister Susan moved
from the USA to
Israel and is a Reform rabbi there, asked Israeli
voters to choose
Meretz in the 2015 election.
Meretz balloon flying at the Rabin memorial rally in Rabin Square, 1
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Meretz finalizes union with new leftist
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Meretz chief: Women's groups
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