Meretz/Democratic Israel

   An electoral list formed prior to the 1992 Knesset election through the amalgamation of three left-wing Zionist political parties: Mapam, the Citizens' Rights and Peace Movement (CRM), and Shinui. The movement's platform was liberal in character. On the domestic front, it advocated the complete separation of religion from political affairs and the enacting of a formal, written constitution to "protect the democratic character of the country, the freedom of the individual, the rule of law and the rights of the minority." Its 1992 platform viewed continued settlement activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as an "obstacle to peace" and proposed a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on "mutual recognition of the right to self-determination of both peoples." It held that Jerusalem must remain unified under Israeli administration but recommended that the city's "special national and religious links" be reflected in any final-status agreement.
   In 2003, Meretz's domestic policy platform emphasized the provision of public transportation and other secular services on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, abortion rights, and the setting of "reasonable limits" on the number of religious deferments from military service. It also promoted a liberal approach for ameliorating the concerns of immigrants (see ALIYA) not recognized as "Jewish" in the eyes of Israel's orthodox religious establishment (see WHO IS A JEW). Meretz aggressively promoted full civil rights for Israeli Arabs along with gays and other "discernible minorities"—as reflected in the inclusion on its slate of two Israeli Arabs (one a woman), the first openly gay member of the Knesset (MK), and the first handicapped person to pursue a Knesset seat. In terms of its 2003 foreign policy platform, although party leader Yossi Sarid criticized Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for his failure to fight terrorism, Meretz continued to support significant territorial concessions—including the evacuation of most settlements and "shared sovereignty" over Jerusalem—as the best way to achieve lasting peace with the Palestinians.
   Under the leadership of the veteran CRM leader Shulamit Aloni, Meretz won 12 seats in the 1992 Knesset election and joined the governing coalition headed by Yitzhak Rabin and the Israel Labor Party. The party slipped to 9 seats in the 14th Knesset under the leadership of Sarid, who had succeeded Aloni in 1996. In the spring of 1999, Shinui left Meretz in order to run independently in the election to the 15th Knesset, winning 6 seats. Despite the loss of Shinui, Meretz went on to win 10 seats in the 17 May 1999 vote. Meretz joined the coalition government headed by Ehud Barak, with Sarid serving as education minister and Ran Cohen as minister of industry and trade. In the 2003 election to the 16th Knesset, Meretz slipped to only six mandates.
   On 31 March 2004, the party's membership voted to transform themselves into a new left-wing Zionist Movement, Yahad-Social Democratic Israel, under the chairmanship of former Labor MK and government minister Joseph (Yossi) Beilin. Under Beilin's leadership, the new party won only 5 seats in the 17th Knesset (2006).

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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