Leader Zehava Gal-On
Shulamit Aloni (1992–96)
Yossi Sarid (1996–2003)
Yossi Beilin (2003–08)
Haim Oron (2008–12)
Founded 1992 (alliance)
1997 (single party)
Merger of Ratz, Mapam, Shinui
Headquarters Tel Aviv
Youth wing Meretz Youth
Ideology Social democracy
Labor Zionism
Green politics[2]
Two-state solution[3]
Political position Left-wing[4][5]
European affiliation Party of European Socialists (observer)
International affiliation Progressive Alliance,
Socialist International
Colours Green
5 / 120
Most MKs 12 (1992)
Fewest MKs 3 (2009)
Election symbol

Meretz (Hebrew: מֶרֶצ, lit. "Vigour") is a left-wing, social-democratic,[6] green,[2] and Zionist[7] political party in Israel.

The party was originally formed in 1992 with the union of Ratz, Mapam, and Shinui and was at its peak in the 13th Knesset between 1992 and 1996, during which it held 12 seats. At the 2015 legislative elections the party won five seats.

Meretz is a secular[8] party emphasising a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, social justice, human rights (especially for ethnic and sexual minorities), religious freedom, and environmentalism.[9]

The party is a member of the Progressive Alliance[10] and Socialist International,[11] and is an observer member of the Party of European Socialists.[12]


Meretz was formed in 1992 prior to the 1992 legislative elections by an alliance of three left-wing political parties; Ratz, Mapam and 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 Labor 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 Portfolio in 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 Rubinstein became Minister of Energy and Infrastructure and Minister of Science and Technology and later Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport, whilst Yossi Sarid was named Minister of the Environment and Yair Tzaban named Minister of Immigrant Absorption.

After the 1996 elections, in which Meretz lost a quarter of its seats, Aloni lost internal leadership elections to Yossi Sarid and 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 Cohen Minister of Industry and Trade, and Haim Oron Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. However, after Likud leader Ariel Sharon beat Barak in a special Prime Ministerial election in 2001, Meretz left the government.

On 22 October 2002 Meretz MK Uzi Even made history by becoming the first openly gay Member of Knesset, after Amnon Rubinstein retired. 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'ev was the harshest, saying Even "symbolized the bestialization of humanity," adding that he should be "hidden under the carpet" and banned from entering the Knesset.[13]

For the 2003 elections, Meretz were joined by Roman Bronfman's Democratic Choice. However, the party shrank in representation 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 (שח"ר) movement. The original name suggested for the new party was Ya'ad (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 Zionist peace 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 the rise in Palestinian violence, 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 Beilin was 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 of its name, 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. In 2007, Tsvia Greenfeld, sixth on the party list, became the first ever female Ultra-orthodox Knesset member, following Yossi Beilin's decision to retire from politics.

In March 2008, internal elections for the chairman of the party were held. At an early stage, Yossi Beilin, Zehava Gal-On, and Ran Cohen announced their bids. After Haim Oron announced his bid in December 2007, Beilin withdrew his bid and announced his support for him. Oron went on to win the internal elections held on 18 March 2008 with 54.5% of the vote, beating Ran Cohen (27.1%) and Zehava Gal-On (18.1%) to become Meretz's new chairman.[14]

On 22 December 2008 Meretz finalized its merger with Hatnua HaHadasha ("The New Movement") for the 2009 Israeli elections.[15]


The joint Meretz-Hatnua HaHadasha list ended up winning only 3 seats in the elections. This electoral loss was largely attributed to traditionally left-wing voters choosing to strategically vote for Kadima, in an effort to get Tzipi Livni to head the next government instead of Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud.[16]

Following the party's failure in the 2009 legislative elections,[17] some of the party members called for the resignation of the party chairman Haim Oron and to give way for Zehava Gal-On. Haim Oron indeed left the Knesset on 23 March 2011[18] and later left the chairmanship of the party. As a result, MKs Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon, and youth activist Ori Ophir began campaigning to win the position of the party chairman.[19] The primaries were held on 7 February 2012 for the position of the party's chairman; Zehava Gal-On was elected as the chairman with 60.6% of the votes, whilst Ilan Gilon was second with 36.6%, and Uri Ofir was third with 2.8%.

In the 2013 legislative election held on 22 January 2013, Meretz received 4.5% of the national vote, winning 6 seats.[20]

On 8 December 2014, Meretz signed a surplus-vote agreement with the Labour Party for the upcoming 2015 legislative election,[21] the latter set to contest the election as the Zionist Union. On 19 January 2015, Meretz held its primaries at a meeting of its 1,000-member central committee in the Tel Aviv Convention Center: Zehava Gal-On was re-elected party leader, whilst MK Nitzan Horowitz chose not to stand for re-election.[22]

In the next election, preliminary results of the 2015 election indicated that the party would be reduced she announced she would resign as chairperson of Meretz as soon as a successor is chosen, and from the Knesset in order to open a place for Tamar Zandberg, the party's fifth place candidate who appeared to have lost her seat. Zandberg, Ilan Gilon and others urged Gal-On to reconsider her decision.[23] Once absentee and soldier ballots were counted, however, Meretz gained a fifth seat negating the premise for Gal-On's earlier announcement[24] and she announced that she would continue as party leader,[25] saying: "Meretz received a fifth seat from young supporters, from Israeli soldiers, who raised the party's rate of support. That allowed Meretz to maintain its strength in terms of the number of voters – some 170,000 – compared with the last election. Under the circumstances and against all odds, that is a success."[26]


Meretz marchers at the International Human Rights March, Tel Aviv, 7 December 2012

Meretz defines itself as a Zionist, left-wing, social-democratic party. 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.

In the international media it has been described as left-wing, social-democratic, dovish, secular, civil libertarian, and anti-occupation.[27][28][29][30][31]

Stated principles

The party emphasises the following principles (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • 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).

Chairpersons (leaders)

Knesset Members

Knesset Knesset Members Comments
12th Knesset (1988) 10 Seats: The party was formed 9 March 1992 with the union of Ratz, Mapam, & Shinui.
13th Knesset (1992) 12 Seats:
14th Knesset (1996) 9 Seats:
  • In 1997, Ratz, Mapam, & Shinui formally merged and established the joint Meretz party.
  • On 17 January 1999, Avraham Poraz left Meretz and reformed the Shinui party.
  • On 17 March 1999, David Zucker left Meretz to form a single-member faction.
15th Knesset (1999) 10 Seats: Uzi Even, Haim Oron, Hussniya Jabara, Zehava Gal-On, Naomi Chazan, Ran Cohen, Anat Maor, Amnon Rubinstein, Mossi Raz, Yossi Sarid, Avshalom Vilan, Ilan Gilon
  • On 25 February 2000, Haim Oron resigned from the Knesset. Mossi Raz replaced him.
  • On 31 October 2002, Amnon Rubinstein retired from the Knesset. Uzi Even replaced him.
16th Knesset (2003) as Meretz-Democratic Choice-Shahar 5 Seats (out of 6 in the combined list): Haim Oron, Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan, Ran Cohen, Yossi Sarid
17th Knesset (2006) 5 Seats: Yossi Beilin, Haim Oron, Ran Cohen, Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan, Tzvia Greenfeld
  • On 4 November 2009, Yossi Beilin retired from the Knesset. Tzvia Greenfeld replaced him.
18th Knesset (2009) as New Movement-Meretz 3 Seats: Haim Oron, Ilan Gilon, Nitzan Horowitz, Zehava Gal-On*
19th Knesset (2013) 6 Seats: Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon, Nitzan Horowitz, Michal Rozin, Issawi Frej, Tamar Zandberg
20th Knesset (2015) 5 Seats: Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon, Issawi Frej, Michal Rozin, Tamar Zandberg

Meretz supporters abroad

A number of left-wing Zionist organizations that share many of the ideas of Meretz are affiliated with the Israel-based World Union of Meretz; this includes the London-based Meretz UK, France's Cercle Bernard Lazare, and the USA's Partners for Progressive Israel. The World Union of Meretz has representation in a number of organizations, such as the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund.

Hashomer Hatzair, a progressive Zionist youth movement with branches in many countries, is informally associated with Meretz, although its historic connection had been with Mapam.

American Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman, whose sister moved from the USA to Israel and is a Reform rabbi there, asked Israeli voters to choose Meretz in the 2015 election.[32][33]

See also

Meretz balloon flying at the Rabin memorial rally in Rabin Square, 1 November 2014


  1. Ishaan Tharoor (14 March 2015). "A guide to the political parties battling for Israel's future". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 Melanie J. Wright (2013). Studying Judaism: The Critical Issues. A&C Black. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-4725-3888-8. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  3. "Guide to Israel's political parties". BBC News. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  4. Itamar Rabinovich (2009). Waging Peace: Israel and the Arabs, 1948–2003. Princeton University Press. p. 147. ISBN 1-4008-2597-0. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  5. Sharon Weinblum (2015). Security and Defensive Democracy in Israel: A Critical Approach to Political Discourse. Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-317-58450-6.
  6. Meretz is commonly described as social-democratic political party:
  7. Meretz is described as a Zionist political party:
  8. Meretz is recognised as secular by numerous texts:
  9. "Meretz". Ynetnews. 4 February 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  10. "Participants". Progressive Alliance. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  11. "Member Parties of the Socialist International". Socialist International. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  12. "Members". Party of European Socialists (PES). Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  13. "Openly Gay Knesset Member Ripples the Establishment". Northern California Jewish Bulletin. 11 October 2002. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  14. Somfalvi, Attila (2008-03-19). "MK Oron voted new Meretz chairman". Ynetnews. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  15. Senyor, Eli (2008-12-22). "Meretz finalizes union with new leftist movement". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  16. Senyor, Eli (12 February 2009). "Meretz chief: Women's groups support of Livni harmed us". Ynetnews. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  17. "גלאון: "זה בוקר קשה עבורי"" [Gal-On: "It's a difficult morning for me"] (in Hebrew). Channel 2 News. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  18. פרידה בדמעות מג'ומס: "אחד הפרלמנטרים הבולטים שעיצבו את הכנסת" [Farewell tears of Oron: "One of the most prominent parliamentarians who shaped the Knesset"] (in Hebrew). Knesset. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  19. Hoffman, Gil (28 December 2011). "Young activist joins Meretz leadership race". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  20. "Elections in Israel January 2013". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  21. "Meretz and Labor sign vote-sharing agreement". The Jerusalem Post. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  22. "Meretz primary puts incumbent MKs on top of Knesset slate". Haaretz. 20 January 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  23. Lahav Harkov (18 March 2015). "Meretz chief Gal-On to resign in wake of party's poor showing in election". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  24. "Meretz wins 5th seat in absentee ballots, Likud secures 30th seat". Ynetnews. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  25. "Gal-On decides not to quit as Meretz chief after party rises to 5 mandates in final count". The Jerusalem Post. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  26. "LIVE BLOG: Final vote tally gives Likud, Meretz extra Knesset seats". Haaretz. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  27. Attila Somfalvi (19 September 2008). "Livni reaches out to Meretz". Ynetnews. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  28. Nissan Ratzlav-Katz (25 December 2008). "UN Condemns Hamas; Meretz Wants Military Action". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  29. "Ultra Left Meretz Party Decimated". CBN News. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  30. Etgar Lefkovits (21 September 2008). "Egged removes political ads on 'haredization' of J'lem". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  31. Ashraf Khalil (9 February 2009). "Livni going after far left, women before Israeli vote". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  32. Lahav Harkov (11 March 2015). "Sarah Silverman endorses Meretz". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  33. Sarah Silverman (11 March 2015). "Israel!". Twitter. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
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