Tel Aviv, July 20 - Leaders of the left-wing party Meretz launched a new membership drive today to bolster the movement's stagnant rolls, promising to exempt from the payment of dues any new members who were alive when the party last sat in a government.
Party chairwoman Zehava Gal-On made the announcement to inaugurate the drive, which will run through the rest of the month. Meretz hopes to attract at least a thousand new members during that time, and has focused especially on senior citizens. That demographic, says Gal-On, represents what she called the country's last best hope of thwarting right-wing dominance of the affairs of state that has characterized most of the last twenty years in Israeli politics.
"I see this drive as a metaphor for our situation and our aspirations," Gal-On told a group of activists who had assembled at the party's headquarters to kick off the campaign. "Withdrawal behind the Green Line is a fading dream under continued premierships of Bibi and the Likud. In just a few years a realistic peace agreement will be forever out of reach, a dead idea. Appropriately, then, we are focusing our efforts on Israelis in the seventh, eighth, and ninth decades of their lives who know the feeling of being likely to drop dead anytime now."
Meretz last held seats in a government under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and since then has seen a decline in parliamentary representation. The party currently holds five seats in the Knesset, a far cry from its twelve in the waning decade of the previous millennium. Party leaders hope to tap into some of the memories the elderly may have of that distant time before the land-for-peace formula blew up in the form of suicide bombings, Hamas rockets, stabbings, and vehicular terrorism.
"We're offering incentives to people who were around back then and might still remember what it's like to be optimistic that we'd hit upon a successful formula," said MK Ilan Gilon. "It also helps that people who are old enough to have been alive the last time our party had power are also quite likely to be suffering from some sort of dementia, and won't necessarily realize we're not in the same situation now as we were then."
"Some parties look to the youth as their future, but we don't have that luxury," continued Gilon. "Our core demographic doesn't reproduce at a rate that could guarantee holding on to the seats we have in Knesset, let alone increasing our share. Add to that the way so many of our voters vow to leave every time Bibi is reelected - we're bleeding voters. Our only hope, really, is to rope in as many voters now before it's too late."
Not everyone in Meretz is happy with the initiative. "Meretz may once have been suited to sit in a government, but that's no longer the case," argued former MK Haim Oron. "These decades in Opposition have stripped the party of any sense of what it takes to formulate actual policy and implement it, actions that necessitate compromise with real-world phenomena and people. Meretz has become so devoted to perfect ideology that it wouldn't be able to come to terms with the nitty-gritty, less-than-perfect world that doesn't behave as ideologues insist it should."
Oron conceded the point is academic as long as Palestinian leaders and policymakers keep undermining every argument Meretz can muster about the possibility of peace.
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