Ilan Gilon
Ilan Gilon Hadas Parush/FLASH90

Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, a contender for Meretz party head, angered fellow members of his left-wing party after saying that he would be willing to join a coalition led by the nationalist Jewish Home party if certain conditions were met.

"I have a yearning to be part of the coalition because I want to change things , even if it means that Bennett or Netanyahu will be prime minister" Gilon told the Knesset Channel. "I believe that I can bring in more votes. Gilon stressed however that he would only join a government that agreed to "redivide wealth, redivide the land of Israel, and redivide the religion and state issues".

Gilon's statement was greeted by disbelief by fellow Meretz MKs, who panned Gilon for considering joining a Bennett-led government. "It's sad that a candidate for the Meretz leadership, of the Israeli left, is completely abandoning the struggle against the occupation and racism and the flag for peace which has always been one of Meretz's main positions," said MK Issawi Frej.

"Meretz needs to express a clear position on social and religious issues, but it must not cooperate with a policy of empowering the occupation, or to cooperate with politicians like Netanyahu and Bennett, who every day prove how dangerous their policies are to all of us" added Frej.

The race for to head the far-left Meretz party has been heating up ever since the faction decided to elect its MKs by using a direct primary system. The party had previously selected its Knesset list through a complicated two-tiered system, in which party members would elect representatives who would decide the Knesset list amongst themselves. This system had come under attack in recent years by party members, who pointed to its non-transparent internal elections as the reason for Meretz's poor electoral showing.

Other than Gilon, former Peace Now director Avi Buskila, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and current head Zehava Galon have thrown their hats into the ring to head Meretz in what observers predict will be a highly competitive race.

Once a major force in Israeli politics with a dozen seats in the Knesset and ministerial positions including the Education Ministry and Communications Ministry portfolios, since the 1990s Meretz has declined to just five seats and has not been a member of any government since 2001.

Meretz, which was formed in 1992, was the political union of the Ratz: Movement for Civil Rights and the Peace party - a small, radical-left faction led by Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid – with the secularist Shinui party and the pro-communist Mapam, one of the two Labor factions in the early years of the state before its merger with Mapai. Shinui broke away in 1997, reestablishing itself as an independent party.

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