Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On decided to initiate an open primary for the party’s leadership to try to revitalize the party, she told The Jerusalem Post.
Open primaries, which allow outsiders to vote, are a risky change from the way Meretz has worked in the past, in which a relatively small group of activists elected all the party’s top posts. Steps will be taken to prevent a hostile takeover of the leftist party by right-wingers. Gal-On made the decision even though she has two years left in a four-year term.
“I think Meretz needs to leave its comfort zone and to present an innovative and courageous vision,” she said in an interview with the Post. “Let’s not stay in a closed-door club. We need to do something dramatic for Meretz to develop and to revitalize the leftist camp.”
If Gal-On’s proposal is approved at a party convention on Tuesday, the primary will likely be held in September.
Gal-On invited challengers to run against her, including new voices from sectors of the population that have not voted Meretz in the past.
Activists in the party and elsewhere on the Left expressed hope that a charismatic, “leftist Naftali Bennett” would come and sweep people off their feet.
“Gal-On was right to open up the party,” said former Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer, who is a member of the Labor Party central committee. “This is an important, democratic step to stop the party from being a closed-door clique.”
Oppenheimer said he did not intend to run himself but expressed hope that such a change could enable others to consider it.
“If the system is opened, maybe someone will come who I can’t think of right now,” he said. “Until now, no one could even fantasize about that.”
Gal-On did not consult on the matter with Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who has run against her in the past. He was taken by surprise by the move.
Some current and former Meretz officials scoffed at Gal- On’s idea. They said she was merely advancing the race in order to avoid competition, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did in the Likud and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett is thought to be doing in his party.
“There is no chance for anyone to beat her,” former MK Mossi Raz said.
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