Meretz Party

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MERETZ PARTY

Israeli center-left parliamentary political bloc, separated from the Labor Party, created in 1992 by the union of three political groups: MAPAM, RATZ (Movement for Civil Rights and Peace), and Shinui. The three parties that made up Meretz supported the Israeli-Arab peace process and rejected religious coercion. They were favorable to the existence of a Palestinian entity, coexistence between Israel and Arab states, and opposed to the division of Jerusalem. In the socioeconomic domain, on the other hand, profound differences opposed the Shinui, propounding liberal capitalism, to RATZ and MAPAM, which were openly radical-socialist.

In the elections of June 1992, Meretz won twelve seats in the Knesset, contributing to the return of the Israeli left to power under Yitzhak Rabin, and Meretz became Labor's main coalition partner. Four of its members joined the government of Yitzhak Rabin: Shulamit Aloni (education minister), Amnon Rubinstein (science and energy minister), Yair Tsaban (immigration minister), and Ran Cohen (deputy minister of housing). Tension between Meretz and the SHAS religious party was a factor in the weakening of the Rabin government, which Meretz reproached for the absence of "tangible progress in the domain of peace with the Palestinians and with Syria." In May 1993, a cabinet reshuffle allowed Walid Tsadik, Israeli Arab member of Meretz, to join the Rabin government as deputy minister of agriculture, thereby strengthening this party's position in the government coalition. The naming of Meretz member Walid Tsadik provoked resentment on the part of the Arab Democratic Party, which had been supporting the Labor Party since 1988, without obtaining any ministerial post. During the first semester of 1994, Meretz threatened to quit the government, after it was announced that Tzomet would be joining the government and SHAS entering the Rabin cabinet. Internal conflicts, provoked by ideological divergences between the three parties constituting Meretz, and personal differences within each of the parties, resulted in a weakening of Meretz, which emerged from the elections of June 1996 with nine seats in the Knesset.

In August 1997, a delegation of some thirty Israeli Arabs made an official visit to Damascus, where it was received by Hafiz al-Asad. This visit was the first of its kind since the creation of the State of Israel. In the municipal elections of 10 November 1998, Meretz won ten seats on the city council of Jerusalem. On 18 May 1999, in the Knesset elections that saw the victory of Ehud Barak, Meretz strengthened its position, obtaining ten seats. One of these seats was taken by Husniya Jabara, who became the first Arab woman to enter the Knesset. On 6 July, in spite of significant participation of members of SHAS in the cabinet of Ehud Barak, three members of Meretz accepted ministerial portfolios: Yossi Sarid in education, Chaim Oron in agriculture, and Ran Cohen in commerce and industry. On 21 June 2000, facing constant opposition from SHAS members, the Meretz ministers resigned from the Barak government, but the movement decided to continue supporting the government in the Knesset. The principal members of Meretz in 2004 were: Yossi Sarid (RATZ), Raʾan Cohen (RATZ), Anat Maor (MAPAM), Avraham Poraz (Shinui), Yair Tsaban (MAPAM), Chaim Oron (MAPAM), Walid Tsadik, Amos Oz, Husniya Jabara, Shulamit Aloni (RATZ), Zahava Galon. In the 2003 election Meretz received
5.2 percent of the vote (six seats in the Knesset).


SEE ALSO Arab Democratic Party; Barak, Ehud; MAPAM; Movement for Civil Rights and Peace; Rabin, Yitzhak; Sarid, Yossi; SHAS; Shinui Party.