Meretz prepares for January poll

Buoyed by the Democrats' victory in the US presidential elections, young Meretz supporters in Tel Aviv threw a  celebration, and in the process coined a new Hebrew word: Mesi-Bama, fusing mesiba (party) with Obama. Naturally they hope that the left will do equally well in Israel's coming 22 January 1913 elections. So predicts Meretz leader, Zahava Gal-On.

Barack Obama meeting Elie Wiesel (wiki)
Equally naturally, the make-up of US voters generally, and US Jewish voters specifically, differs markedly from the Israeli electorate. Some 69% of American Jews plumped for the Democrats and Barack Obama - down from about 78% in 2008 but still a lot! One of the strongest statements in favour of Obama came from Rabbi Sharon Brous of LA. American Jews constitute a multi-issue voting bloc; and Israel, said one recent poll, was only decisive for 4% of them. By contrast with USA-based Jews, American Jews in Israel supported Republican Mitt Romney by fully 85%.

So back to Israel and Meretz. What is the party doing in the run-up to polling day? For one thing, Meretz has started firing broadsides against the weird new Frankenstein's monster that has resulted from the electoral merger of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. Lieberman, Beiteinu leader, is the "Israeli Putin", warns the Meretz PR campaign Not everyone in Likud is happy with the merger either, it seems. Nonetheless, the fusion has been approved and Israel's political landscape has suddenly altered.

Meretz convention, Tel Aviv, 2011 - photo: Nir Kafri, Haaretz

Meretz's own appearance may also change after primary elections set for 11 November (this coming Sunday). It is good to hear of the possible return of former MK Avshalom Vilan, as well as Mossi Raz, who gave such a brilliant speech to Meretz UK not long ago. Regrettably Meretz has had problems meeting the wishes of important Arab supporters. Recent news suggests a 7th place slot for the impressive Isawi Farij from Kafr Qassem. But if Meretz maintains its current tally of just three MKs after 22 January, neither he nor three other top figures will make it to the Knesset.

Clearly the more MKs are elected, the greater the variety Meretz can show on their list, and the happier everyone will be! Realistically, Meretz has a mountain to climb to bring in newer votes. All that said,  optimism is riding high. Maybe the party can promote a clear programme based on peace and social justice. Then they can convince voters that they present an alternative to the failed policies of existing parties and the ethereal promises of newfangled entities. More to follow!