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Israel’s left-wing set for overhaul as Meretz heads drop from leadership race

In this photo taken Feb. 24, 2015, Zehava Galon, the leader of Meretz party, arrives at a debate hosted by the Israel Women’s Network in Tel Aviv
AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov
Meretz, which currently holds five seats in the 120-seat Knesset, is due to hold primary elections on March 22

Israel’s left-wing Meretz camp is set for a major overhaul, after the party’s longtime chair Zehava Galon and parliamentary representative Ilan Gilon both announced Wednesday that they would not seek the party's leadership in upcoming primary elections.

“From conversations with activists around the country in recent weeks, I understood that they want new leadership,” Galon, who has led Meretz since 2012, said in a statement.

Last year, Galon gave up her seat in parliament in order to concentrate on leading the party and increasing its influence. Following the move, Meretz membership jumped by 70 percent.

Shortly after Galon’s announcement, Meretz lawmaker Ilan Gilon, who has represents the party in parliament, also announced that he would not seek the party’s leadership due to health issues.

“I went through a medical event that limits my ability to continue the campaign as I would like,” Gilon wrote. “I will continue serving the public as chairman of the Meretz faction in the Knesset and promote the values ​​for which you sent me to the Knesset," Gilon wrote.

Galon,62, has served for many years in the Israeli opposition and has been a fixture of Israeli politics for decades, though she has never served as a member of a ruling government.

In a letter to party members, Galon said that she "remains committed to the struggle for a better, just, fair, egalitarian and democratic Israel that will put the person at the center.”

“I am proud that I had the right to represent Meretz voters as the party's leader over the last six years,” she wrote.

Meretz, which currently holds five seats in the 120-seat Knesset, is due to hold primary elections on March 22.

With the changing of the guard, front-runners for the party's leadership are seen as MK Tamar Zandberg, former Peace Now director Avi Buskila, and social activist Avi Dabush.

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