Nitzan Horowitz is a member of Knesset for the Meretz party. He joined the Knesset in 2009, after a two-decade career as a journalist. The first in a special series of conversations with Israeli politicians in the run-up to the elections in January.
What is the main topic or theme of the upcoming elections? Is it Iran? The peace process? The economy? What do you think is the real worry of the Israeli public today?
Well there is no one single topic – it's a combination of different topics, I would say the security and peace issue is no doubt a major issue, as always by the way, but also social economic issues and issues of religious coercion and other matters, It varies from party to party. For certain parts of the public, let's say the peace issue is the major issue. For a different sector of the public, the socioeconomic issue is the major issue – it depends. But there is no one single topic this time.
In this context, what is the markedly unique message that your party has to offer to the public?
Meretz is the only party of what we call the Zionist left. Meretz is advocating and promoting three issues – social justice, peace, and separation of state and religion, state and church as you call it in the States. Meretz is the only political party advocating or believing in those three issues - the three flags. And there is no hierarchy to them. - these three are equally important. So this is our unique message. This time, there is also one another thing – Meretz is the only party of the Zionist left, because the Labor party, which used to be part of this bloc, shifted to the right and is no longer considered a leftwing party. It’s a new situation.
[Labor leader Shelly] Yachimovich herself declared that calling Labor left is an historical injustice, and she claims that they are a centrist party. They present themselves as a center party, and so the only Zionist leftist party is Meretz.
What would be the best coalition for Israel after the election, and do you think your party should consider joining a Netanyahu coalition?
No! One of our most important commitments to our voters is that we will not be in any case part of the Bibi-Lieberman government. This is another issue that separates us from the other parties. All the others, like Labor, Kadima and all the center parties, they themselves prefer to join the next Bibi government after the election. Meretz is saying very clearly that we will not do that. What we wish for is a new kind of government - a center-left government, a coalition of center-left parties. We would be happy to be part of this kind of government, but not of this extreme rightwing, ultra-Orthodox government of Bibi Netanyahu, Lieberman, the Haredim.
What kind of relationship would you expect the next prime minister to have with President Obama?
He [Benjamin Netanyahu] should have thought about this question when he intervened bluntly in the American presidential campaign. It was unprecedented for a leader of a foreign nation to meddle in the political process of another country; considering the fact that the United States is our strongest ally and most important one, it was also a very stupid thing to do. He bet on the wrong horse. It was very clear for a long time it was the wrong horse, and now I hope Israel will not have to pay the price for the terrible political mistake made by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
I hope that for the sake of the country that relations with the United States will be good, but having heard what Rahm Emanuel said - that Netanyahu stabbed President Obama in the back - I find it hard to believe that those two will be able to overcome this hurdle.
How would you improve U.S.-Israel relations during President Obama's second term?
First of all, I would refrain from intervening, meddling and taking sides in the political process of the other country. It was a very stupid thing to do, very risky. Secondly, I would renew the peace process, and I would secure the position of the United States in order to push this process forward. And thirdly, I would consider apologizing to President Obama for the support given to Mitt Romney. This was not proper.
Do you think American Jews should take sides in Israeli elections, or just support the winning coalition after the event? If you do think American Jewry should have a voice, what kind of involvement and support do you have in mind?
We as Zionists see Israel as the national homeland of all the Jews, so we encourage Jews all over the world to be part of the vision of Israel, but taking sides directly, they cannot vote, so of course they have support for certain sides, I'm not sure it should go any further than that. They should sympathize with Israel in general, especially with the cause of peace. In order to secure Israel they should support peace so that we will be able to fulfill the Zionist vision here of living in peace and security in this country with our neighbors.