colorcode = #BF0202
party_name = Meretz-Yachad
foundation = 1992
MPheight = 12 (1992 elections)
MPcurrent = 5 (2006)
Social democracy, Green politics, Labor Zionism
position = Left
Party of European Socialists(Observer)
website = [http://www.Meretz.org.il/ www.Meretz.org.il]
Meretz-Yachad ( _he. מרצ-יחד, "Vitality - Together"), previously known as Meretz and then Yachad, is a left-wing [ [http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=3918015&ct=5145695 Political Parties in Israel] Israel at 60] social democratic
political partyin Israel. It is not connected with the defunct Yachad party from the 1980s.
Meretz was formed in 1992 prior to the elections by an alliance of three left-wing parties; Ratz,
Mapamand 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 Labour 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 Portfolioin 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 Rubinsteinbecame Minister of Energy and Infrastructure and Minister of Science and Technology and later Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport, whilst Yossi Saridwas named Minister of the Environment and Yair TzabanMinister of Immigrant Absorption.
After the 1996 elections, in which Meretz lost a quarter of its seats, Aloni lost internal leadership elections to
Yossi Saridand 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,
Hussniya Jabara. Meretz were invited into Ehud Barak's coalition, with Sarid becoming Education Minister, Ran CohenMinister of Industry and Trade, and Haim OronMinister of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, after Ariel Sharonbeat Barak in a special election for Prime Minister in 2001, Meretz left the government.
On October 22, 2002, Meretz MK
Uzi Evenmade history by becoming the first openly gayMember of Knesset, after Amnon Rubinsteinretired. 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'evwas the harshest, saying Even "symbolized the bestialization of humanity," adding that he should be "hidden under the carpet" and banned from entering the Knesset. [ [http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/19055/edition_id/385/format/html/displaystory.html Openly Gay Knesset Member Ripples the Establishment] Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, October 11, 2002]
For the 2003 elections, Meretz were joined by
Roman Bronfman's Democratic Choice. However, the party shrank 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 elections.
In December 2003, Meretz was disbanded in order to merge with
Yossi Beilin's non-parliamentary Shahar (Hebrew: שח"ר) movement. The original name suggested for the new party was "Ya'ad" (Hebrew: 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 previously in 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 Hevratit Demokratit").
The new party was established in order to unite and resuscitate the Israeli
Zionistpeace 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 continued Palestinian terrorism, 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 Beilinwas 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 to 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, running as just "Meretz", under the slogan "Meretz on the left, the Human in the centre". Nevertheless, it failed to stop the party's decline, as they won just five seats, the lowest total in the party's history. If they had picked up another seat,
Tsvia Greenfeld, sixth on the party list, would have become the first ever female Ultra-orthodox Knesset member.
In the party leadership contest in late 2007 Beilin withdrew his candidacy after it became clear that
Haim Oronwas leading in the polls. Oron went on to win the internal elections held on 18 March 2008with 54.5% of the vote, beating Ran Cohen(27.1%) and Zehava Gal-On(18.1%) to become Meretz's new chairman. [cite web |url=http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3520884,00.html |title=MK Oron voted new Meretz chairman |accessdate=2008-03-24 |last=Somfalvi |first=Attila |date= 2008-03-19|publisher= Ynetnews]
It sees itself as the political representative of the
Israeli Peace movement, in the Knesset - as well as municipal councils and other local political bodies.
It emphasises the following principles (not necessarily in order of importance):
*Peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on a
two-state solutionas laid out in the Geneva Accord.
*Dismantling most of the
Israeli settlements in the West Bankand the Gaza Strip.
Human rightsissues::*Struggle for the protection of human rights in the Israeli-occupied territories.:*Rights of minorities in Israel (such as Israeli Arabs and foreign workers), fight against discrimination, and support for affirmative action. :* Women's rightsand feminism.:* LGBT rights.
* Struggle for
social justice::* Making Israel a social democratic welfare state.:* Protecting workers' rights and fighting against their exploitation (especially, though not exclusively, in the case of foreign workers and immigrants).
*Separation of religion and state, and religious freedom.
* Israel's security.
Meretz-Yachad's approach toward the
Israeli-Palestinian conflicthas abandoned the "securitist" approach of its predecessor Meretz and focused its criticism at the conduct of former PM Ariel Sharonand the government. The party was torn in whether to support Sharon's disengagement plan, though in November 2004, it announced that it would abstain in motions of no confidence in the Likudgovernment in order to prevent the government from falling prior to the implementation of the plan. With the defection of Shinuifrom Ariel Sharon's government, Meretz-Yachad's decision helped Sharon to execute his plan.
Issues being debated internally
Issues that are still under debate in Meretz-Yachad:
* Opinion about
refusal to serve in the Israeli militaryand whether Yachad supports the refusniks (officially it disapproves of them)?
* Should Palestinians be given symbolic "
right of return" to Israel, as laid out in the Geneva Accord?
* Does Meretz-Yachad support
unilateralsteps in trying to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians?
Current Knesset members
Meretz supporters abroad
A number of progressive Zionist organizations that share many of the ideas and ideals of Meretz-Yachad are affiliated with the Israel-based
World Union of Meretz; this includes [http://www.meretzusa.org/ Meretz USA] in the U.S. and the London-based [http://www.meretz.org.uk/ Meretz UK] , France's [http://cbl.gossin.com/ Cercle Bernard Lazare] .... The World Union of Meretz has representation in a number of organizations, such as the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund.
Meretz USA has joined with other progressive Zionists in the 'States and Canada to form the
Union of Progressive Zionists, a college student network, as well as [http://www.janip.net/ the Jewish Academic Network for Israeli-Palestinian Peace] . Hashomer Hatzair, a progressive Zionist youth movement with branches in many countries, is informally associated with Meretz through its historic connection with Mapam.
Israeli peace camp
* [http://www.myparty.org.il/main-branch/en/ Official website]
* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/FactionPage_eng.asp?PG=194 Meretz-Yachad] Knesset website
* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/FactionPage_eng.asp?PG=4 Meretz] Knesset website
* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/FactionPage_eng.asp?PG=156 Meretz and the Democratic Choice] Knesset website
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