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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oron new head of Meretz; won't join government

Last update - 10:09 19/03/2008    
 New Meretz chair: We won't join Olmert's government 
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent 
After being elected the Meretz party's next chairman, MK Haim Oron on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of the faction joining Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government.
Oron is considered a close associate of the prime minister's, and was widely believed to have sought to join Olmert's coalition in the event of success in the primaries. "This is not up for discussion," the incoming Meretz chairman said Tuesday.
The MK gained some 54 percent of the votes in Tuesday's party primaries, with about 90 percent of the votes counted.
As such, Oron will not need to go to a second round of primaries.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday telephoned Oron to congratulate him on his election, and advised him to consider seriously joining the government.
"Meretz's joining the government can strengthen the government in its efforts to reach a political arrangement [with the Palestinians]," Barak said.
The defense minister also called on Olmert to work toward Meretz's inclusion in his coalition.
Oron seemingly rejected the possibility of this, however, when he said Tuesday that, "the Olmert government, in every area, says one thing and does another. Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he is striving for peace, yet has not evacuated even one outpost."
"In addition, Meretz is a witness to the crisis in negotiations with the Palestinians and therefore sees absolutely no reason for Meretz to join the government," Oron said.
The MK stated that the party's first mission was to become a meaningful factor in Israeli politics, and to bring back groups who had left the party such as young people.
MK Ran Cohen, who ran against Oron, garnered some 27 percent of the primaries vote. MK Zahava Gal-On, another contender, received about 18 percent.
Some 70 percent of Meretz's 15,000 members turned out at 132 polling stations nationwide, in order to choose a replacement for current party chairman MK Yossi Beilin.
"I spoke with Ran and with Zahava and both of them congratulated me on my victory," said Oron.
Oron will be tasked with pulling the party out of its current crisis, and preparing it for the next parliamentary elections.

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