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Meretz is the last Jewish anti-occupation party. But for how long?

As Israel’s center-left and centrist parties have dropped the topic of the occupation over the years, Meretz has remained the sole Jewish party to emphasize ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But can it continue to hold out amidst running mate Ehud Barak’s talk of annexation? 

By Meron Rapoport

Democratic Union party leaders Ehud Barak, Stav Shaffir and Nitzan Horowitz hold a press conference launching their campaign ahead of the Knesset elections. Tel Aviv, August 12, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Democratic Union party leaders Ehud Barak, Stav Shaffir and Nitzan Horowitz hold a press conference launching their campaign ahead of the Knesset elections. Tel Aviv, August 12, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Meretz has seen its fair share of criticism over the years — too white, too left-wing, too Zionist, too Tel Aviv-centric, too occupation-oriented, too elitist. But there is one thing you can’t take from it: Meretz’s party platform has always clearly called for an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, even as Israel’s centrist and center-left parties have done all they can to avoid dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Not a single other Jewish party has been as emphatic on this issue. Prior to the last Israeli elections in April, former Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg traveled to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Meretz has also put an emphasis on Jewish-Arab partnership throughout the last few years, and has even considered turning the party into a joint Jewish-Arab one.

As such, recent statements by Ehud Barak — who is number 10 in the Democratic Union list of which Meretz is a part — should be considered a clear departure from the dovish party’s positions. Barak acknowledges that the Palestinian issue is the “elephant in the room,” an exceptional acknowledgement in today’s political discourse, but his proposals for dealing with this elephant do not necessarily include ending the occupation or establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The two-state solution, says Barak, should be used as a goal for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (he doesn’t mention the PLO). But if the two sides remain unable to come to an agreement, Israel must unilaterally annex the settlement blocs, including the settlements of Ariel and Kedumim, located deep inside the West Bank. The Israeli army, he continues, must maintain control of the rest of the occupied territories until negotiations start up again. In short, Barak believes that the end of the occupation and a Palestinian state are not basic principles — they are options, and not necessarily the preferred ones.

It is true that Barak’s Israel Democratic Party is only one of the three parties that makes up the Democratic Union, alongside Meretz and the Stav Shaffir-led Green Movement. But in the Union’s election campaign, it is Barak who is charged with speaking about the conflict, while Union leader on behalf of Meretz, Nitzan Horowitz, talks about religion and state and Shaffir talks about climate issues. In a conversation with prominent journalist Amit Segal Thursday, Barak said that the “Democratic Union is to the right of the Labor party.” This should come as a surprise to Meretz, which has always presented itself as Israel’s “real left.”

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And then there is Yair Golan, who joined Barak in forming the Israel Democratic Party and is number three on the Democratic Union List. While Golan does not shy away from using the word “apartheid” when talking about the dangers of perpetual rule over the occupied territories, his unilateral annexation plan is even more thorough than that of Barak, including Kiryat Arba near Hebron and the entirety of the Jordan Valley. Golan also said that he prefers a coalition with Avigdor Liberman over one with the Joint List, the latter of which was viewed by Meretz as a natural partner.

Has Meretz given up on the basic principles that have guided it for years? In an agreement over “ideological guidelines” signed by the three parties that make up the Democratic Union, the words “ending the occupation” or “two states” do not appear. In their place appears a vague version of “striving for peace and a negotiated settlement.” In the Labor Party platform, both under Avi Gabbay and under his successor, Amir Peretz — who has been vilified for allegedly abandoning the conflict — the term “two states” is explicitly mentioned.

It’s difficult to say whether this change has led to infighting inside Meretz, but party leaders say the decision has certainly been a difficult one. There are those who claim that the gap between Barak’s positions and the classic Meretz platform are not that extreme, and that the two sides agree on “95 percent.” Others say the gaps are large and worry that the right could take advantage of the fact that even Meretz now appears to be talking about annexation. Yet nearly everyone in the party takes solace in the fact that Barak is actually talking about the conflict.

Beyond that, a joint campaign with Barak means Meretz won’t have to worry about not passing the electoral threshold for the first time in many years. Meretz leaders say that after the elections on Sept. 17, Barak will disappear from party life, since he won’t make it into the next Knesset.

Former MK Mossi Raz, who is widely seen as the head of the “anti-occupation” camp in Meretz, is happy with the partnership with Barak, which he says has “strengthened the discourse on the occupation.”

Democratic Union Party candidate Ehud Barak, June 23, 2017. (Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man)

Democratic Union Party candidate Ehud Barak, June 23, 2017. (Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man)

“I am against unilateral annexation, either with or without American backing,” says Raz. He does not hide his differences with Barak on this issue or on Barak’s infamous declaration that there is “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side. Yet he prefers that a person like Barak, whose words as a former prime minister and IDF chief of staff carry significantly more weight, will say these things “rather than people with whom I agree with on everything, who prefer to remain silent, including one or two members of my own party.”

Raz is mostly likely referring to Horowitz, who refrains from expressing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially since the establishment of the Democratic Union. That silence on the occupation as well as on the issue of Jewish-Arab partnership upsets many in Meretz.

Uri Zaki, the former president of Meretz’s Governing Assembly, agrees with Raz’s assessment of Barak. Yet the content of the former prime minister’s declarations is problematic in his view. These positions, says Zaki, “do not align with Meretz’s position, especially vis-à-vis unilateral annexation, and particularly when the Trump administration is able to back unilateral moves. The solution is between Ramallah and Jerusalem. There is a partner on the Palestinian side, even if it is weak.”

If there is something that worries almost everyone in Meretz, it is what will happen on the day after the election, and what role Meretz will play as a faction in the Democratic Union. Of the first 11 candidates, only four belong to the party. In the meantime, the only person talking about political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Barak.

To date, the Israeli “peace camp” has never truly recovered from Barak’s “no partner” declarations. According to his interview with Segal on Thursday, he doesn’t really seem to regret that fact. In 2000, Barak brought down the Labor Party, both ideologically and in terms of voters. Now, the question is whether he will do the same to Meretz.

Meron Rapoport is an editor at Local Call, where this article first appeared in Hebrew. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Rivka Koen

      It’s long past time to start looking at Barak as a barely-covert agent of the same reactionary forces that murdered Yitzhak Rabin. He sabotaged the peace process, he sabotaged the Labor Party, and now he’s keeping up the work he’s been doing his whole career. Why on Earth would Meretz agree to let him be their spokesman on the peace process?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      I would have really liked to see Meretz run on a platform like that promoted by people like Mossi Raz and Uri Zaki just to see how much support there is for the far left. But alas, Meretz chose life. I suppose I’ll have to content myself with the fact that Mossi Raz isn’t going to make it into the Knesset.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      Meretz is a bad joke. Eseentially, it consists of a bunch of guilt-ridden anarchists, self-haters and radical Marxists.

      Reply to Comment
      • Some-one.

        I think that basically the are concerned with the Zionist colonial project’s image in Western Europe with which they rightly feel a strong affinity with as they are themselves basically Western Europeans living in the Middle East. When the replaced the impressive Tamar Zandberg with some raving homosexual celebrity as leader I lost all the respect I had for them.If they were in anyway Marxists they would be Habash and if they actually radical Marxists they would be in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Um….No actually.
          Israeli Jews come from many different exiles – Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Caucauses Mountains, India, Middle East, North Africa as well several other places as well.
          So your basically wrong – they are not all Wwestern Europe as you state.

          Reply to Comment
        • Rivka Koen

          Funny thing about the Bolsheviks: They initially supported Israel, and only aligned themselves with Palestine after Israel made it clear that they were siding with the Western Bloc.

          Their opinions on just about everything are not to be taken seriously, as they dress support for Soviet imperialism up as “anti-imperialism.” They have produced volumes of theory designed specifically to justify the actions of this now-zombified country, and these volumes of sophism have a shamefully outsized influence on the left.

          Reply to Comment
    4. itshak Gordine

      It consists of 3 puppets: Barak who was ready to offer the Temple Mount to strangers from the Land of Israel. He abandoned southern Lebanon to Hezbollah and abandoned our allies in the region. Stav Shafir who a few days after being a candidate for the Labor Party joined the Meretz and Nitsan Horowitz, a pederast .. What beautiful people..

      Reply to Comment
      • Rivka Koen

        “Pederast” to describe openly gay men – why isn’t this ever in the hasbara Israel presents to the world about its famous tolerance? Truly an oasis in the desert for gay rights you are.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Rivka, Open your dictionary and you will find that “pederast” is the correct word for male homosexuality. This is not an insult. Yes, Horowitz confirms that he is a pederast.

          Reply to Comment
          • Yitzy

            That’s quite an allegation.
            pederasty | ˈpɛdərasti | (also paederasty)
            noun [mass noun]
            sexual activity involving a man and a boy.

            Reply to Comment
      • Johanan bar Nappaha

        Did you know the world’s last caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, decriminalized homosexuality in the 19th century? I would wonder what the religious Zionists intend to do if their vision is achieved, but you make it pretty clear when you call gay men “pederasts.” You’re the one devoid of beauty.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          I have already answered someone on this forum: Pederasty is the correct term for male homosexuality. Consult your dictionary..

          Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            Earth to GRU troll farm: you’re speaking English right now. That phony defense of your abominable slur doesn’t work in this language.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            According to the Larousse, pederast = homosexual. So you can keep your insults. You have to call things by their name..

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            If anyone ever needed proof of the sneaky dishonesty and offensiveness of the national-religious settlers, well, you have it here, and divorced from the I-P context. This kind of cold, snide, smearing, sleazy, demonizing, hateful dishonesty, based on twisted references and pretend innocence and utter disregard for other human beings, blithely delivered, with a sneer, is absolutely no different than the attitude Itshak Gordine Halevy displays towards Arab persons and even Gentiles generally. It’s all the same tactics, and the same contempt for human beings outside his narrow tribal campfire and outside the cramped little mental world guarded by “our great rabbis.” And it is all the same contempt for the truth, the same “it is permitted to lie for our cause” ethic. We see here the real person revealed. The thing to realize is that this person is not atypical. He is representative. Behold the Bezalel Smotrich-channeling national-religious settler in all his brutal, sneaky, conniving “glory.” So the next time you hear someone pinkwash the colonization of the West Bank, think of what this person has just said here, and take some anti-nausea medication. And do something about it.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            I quote the dictionary and you answer with an avalanche of ridiculous and meaningless accusations. It’s your specialty, it seems. Are you paid at the word? Since when did you not consult your dictionary?

            Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            Larousse isn’t an an authoritative reference for the English language and attempting to use it in any natively English-speaking country will just get a lot of confused looks as people ask “what dictionary?” or, even more likely, “who?”

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Since we have come to mention sexual deviations, remember that Ehud Barak was according to the press very close to the late pedophile Epstein. He had free entry to his house.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            So was Alan Dershowitz, one of Israel’s most prolific defenders.

            And so was Donald Trump, the Judeo-Christian Moshiach himself, who was in the best position to murder Epstein and seems to have just done that. Maybe Molech Yisrael is more accurate than Melech Yisrael to describe Trump…

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy, why the hysteria about ”avalanches”? I thought you came out of Switzerland. Why don’t you look up the word in “Larrouse”?

            “Since we have come to mention sexual deviations” — no, troll, not “we” — since *you* came to “mention” it. The misuser of language lectures us on the ridiculous and the meaningless. Normal people could not make up this kind of antisocial narcissism. It is Halevy’s national-religious settler specialty and it is real. You’ve got us diverted to a sleazy distraction, Halevy, congrats, but we are going to insist on not being distracted from the true meaning of this little adventure in dishonest pedantry you’ve launched on us. We’ll examine it for what it really says about you and your settler honchos ==>

            I mean it when I say that this ‘Itshak Gordine’ (Halevy) is showing the same slithery dishonesty he and his national-religious settler honchos show all the time with respect to the occupation and the treatment of non-Jews in the territories. It’s just more of the same. This is the real lesson here. This is a lesson in the true character of the settlers driving the occupation and the true character of their “enterprise.”

            Keep it coming, Halevy, you’re exposing yourself nicely. No pun intended. You were never one to miss an opportunity to make the point for us all by yourself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Your dictionary needs an update. A pederast, or one who engages in pederasty, is a pedophile FFS. Homosexuality and pedophilia are not one in the same and, although it is popular among some, not to be conflated. Like judaism and zionism, one of these things is not like the other.

            Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Who is the puppet master? Barak’s own ego? It is better to call Barak an agent. An agent, as Rivka Koen phrased it, of the same reactionary forces that murdered Yitzhak Rabin. Speaking of whom, it would appear that Yair Netanyahu, under the pressure of imagining his father in Block 10 of Maasiyahu Prison, is completely losing it:
        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-on-son-s-tweets-about-yitzhak-rabin-his-opinions-are-his-alone-1.7808374

        Halevy you sound hysterical and offensive like Yair. Birds of a feather.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      In other news, authorities in Morocco demolished a Holocaust memorial near Marrakesh. The memorial was erected by a German non-profit organization, PixelHelper, to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and members of the LGBT community murdered during WW2. Basically, crowds of Morrocans were angry that the memorial seemed to promote normalization of ties to Israel.

      Has 972 mag ever informed you of such progressive acts that even Modern, pro-Western Arab states do ?

      Reply to Comment
      • Amir

        Morocco is not the right place for a memorial of holocaust, there are many countries in Europe and “israel” to do so.

        Morocco has other jobs to do that celebrating a victimization of occupiers and children killers

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Typical example of “Palestinian” racism. Accusing millions of murdered Jews to be killers of children … This is not surprising when you know that Mahmoud Abbas is a patent negationist. Your artificial cause is definitely lost.

          Reply to Comment
          • Amir

            I’m not accusing “millions of jews” but occupiers. You are extrapolating it

            Shooting at children, raiding homes at night, kidnapping people, deporting people, torture, administrative detention without trial, and so and so,

            Tell Palestinians, not me, that criticizing the occupation and all above is racism!!!

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            It is impossible to tell anything to Narnians, Middle Earthers and fakestinyans. That is because these peoples are mythical entities, invented by CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Y. Arafart respectively.

            Reply to Comment
          • Amir

            Not as fake as the famous hoax, the exile, king david, temples and other fabrications that jews are still looking for to prove..

            Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            “Tell Palestinians, not me”

            I don’t tell Palestinians anything, but you aren’t “criticizing occupiers” so quit lying. You’re defending the destruction of a Holocaust memorial in a country where non-Jewish Moroccans are privileged over Jewish Moroccans. And who are you, anyway? You admit to not being Palestinian, so what do you think you’re doing by coming in here and being extremely antisemitic on their behalf? You’re out of your lane on both accounts.

            Reply to Comment
          • Amir

            I am not Palestinian, so what? Any Palestinian commenting here?

            And this accusation of “extremely antisemitic”? That is only what you guys, say when we don’t agree with you? the antisemitic card?

            I won’t also mention what israel and jews have been destroying in Palestine since 1947

            Go and build a holocaust memorial in Naplouse, Nazareth, Umm al fahm, Ramallah. try, tell them the same speech of victims then come back

            Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            You’re as dumb as Lewis and Itshak. Fascists are the same everywhere. American fascists, German fascists, Israeli fascists, whatever the hell you are, all exactly the same. No idea how to argue, think everyone is dumb and you’re fooling everyone, but the only people you’re fooling are each other.

            Reply to Comment
          • Amir

            Keep your morality for yourself…

            From antisemitism to fascim!!! Tu fais vraiment pitié ma pauvre chou!

            Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            Y a-t-il une barrière linguistique ? C’est pour ça que tu ne peux pas comprendre pourquoi tu es qualifié d’antisémite ? Tu n’as pas à ouvrir la bouche.

            Reply to Comment
          • Amir

            Effectivement quand on ne maitrise pas le français, on ferme sa bouche. Rivka Conne. Comprenne qui pourra lol

            Reply to Comment
        • Rivka Koen

          Morocco is not occupied by Israel, nor subject to Israel’s rule, nor in any way oppressed by any Jews anywhere.

          Instead the Jewish population of Morocco has experienced pogroms at the hands of other Moroccans who use Israel as an excuse to blame Jews for their problems. As has happened in the rest of the Arab world. Which causes the Jewish population to flee (albeit more slowly than in many other Arab countries) as Moroccan Jews, facing violence at the hands of their neighbors, decide that Zionism must have been right.

          It’s disgusting that you would defend the destruction of a Holocaust memorial there or anywhere, and inexcusable. My cousins survived the Holocaust, my neighbors were Moroccan Jews, and neither they nor my immediate family have anything to do with Israel.

          Reply to Comment
        • Keiner Nit

          What do you think Hitler’s plans were for the Jews of North Africa, you idiot? And the Arabs wouldn’t be far behind. Hitler didn’t even like Slavs, you think Arabs and Berbers were going to be safe?

          Reply to Comment
          • Amir

            idiot toi-meme! What were Hitler’s plan for the jews of NA are not my concern, I am more concerned about the naqba of 1947-48, naqsa 1967 and so and so

            Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            What laughable BS, you came into this thread just to defend the destruction of a Holocaust memorial in Morocco, and now you’re trying to change the subject and talk about the Naqba and Palestine.

            You could’ve just told Lewis this had nothing to do with the Naqba, like any non-antisemitic person would’ve done, but instead you volunteered to tell everyone how OK you are with antisemitism in Morocco, letting the world and everyone on this site know that yes, you are an antisemite. You can’t backpedal on this now.

            Reply to Comment
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