New Faces of Israel's Election

Competition on Right and Center and for Orthodox Vote

Fresh Face: Ex-news anchor Yair Lapid may not become the next Israeli prime minister. But he leads a crop of fresh faces contesting this month’s general election.
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Fresh Face: Ex-news anchor Yair Lapid may not become the next Israeli prime minister. But he leads a crop of fresh faces contesting this month’s general election.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 07, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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A social protester who continued the fight long after it was out of the headlines, 36-year-old Tamar Zandberg is Meretz’s energetic new candidate.

The Tel Aviv city counselor led the local Meretz faction’s walkout from the ruling municipal coalition at the start of the summer, accusing Mayor Ron Huldai of trying to undermine the social protest movement. Huldai refused to let protestors pitch tents as they had been allowed to the previous summer. In June, when police arrested 85 people who were accused of violent protest, Zandberg said it was part of a Huldai-led move to discredit the cause.

Zandberg, a prominent activist from the first days of the social protests, is also known for taking to the streets over the Palestinian cause. She was one of the organizers of “Yes Palestine” rallies in Tel Aviv in support of the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations in September 2011, and again in November. The UN bids are the “most peaceful and sure way” for the Palestinians to promote their desire for statehood, she said. She added that advancing this cause was also a “sure way to guarantee the continuation of Israel as a state,” by which she meant Israel as a democratic state with a strong Jewish majority.

In local Tel Aviv politics, Zandberg has been active against what she terms religious coercion, placing the issue of buses on Sabbath on the city council’s agenda. Her advocacy moved the council to demand that Huldai’s administration allow Sabbath buses in the city. That request now lies with the government, which has yet to respond.

Her position on Sabbath buses angered Haredim, but on the issue of the military draft she agrees with many of them. Unlike most secular politicians, Zandberg favors continuing their exemption from service if they can be integrated into the workforce without drafting them. “I don’t think they’re needed to go in the army if the problem [of low participation in the workforce] is solved,” she said.

Polls suggest that Zandberg, in the sixth spot on Meretz’s list, may just miss out on a Knesset seat, but following the release in late December of its new diplomatic platform and peace plan, some analysts expect a surge in support from leftist Labor voters.

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