Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Top centrist Netanyahu rivals unite for Israeli election run

Top centrist Netanyahu rivals unite for Israeli election run

The announcement, just after dawn, said that Gantz's Israel Resilience party and Lapid's Yesh Atid had agreed that should they win and form a government, Gantz would be prime minister first for a period of two and a half years, and then Lapid would take over.

However, Netanyahu argued that right-wing votes should not be "wasted" and that the three groups should merge to pass the minimum threshold for seats in the Knesset, or parliament, making them potential coalition partners.

Jewish Home's chairman said in a statement he accepted the deal after talks with Netanyahu.

Among the prominent figures in the joint Jewish Home-Jewish Power list are Bezalel Smotrich, a self-avowed "proud homophobe", Itamar Ben Gvir, an attorney who has made a career defending radical Israeli settlers implicated in West Bank violence, and Benzi Gopstein, leader of an extremist anti-assimilation group whose Twitter handle translates to "Kahane was right".

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for postponing a visit to Russian Federation, saying that he is "working tirelessly" to incorporate far-right groups into his coalition instead.

The late American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane's Jewish Defence League is considered a terrorist organization by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Netanyahu's Likud party announced it would reserve the 28th spot on its parliamentary list for the Jewish Home party and grant it two cabinet ministries in a future government if it merges with the Jewish Power party.

Netanyahu's gambit drew criticism from opposition politicians. Netanyahu is willing to "trample" the national interest for a small gain, Yemini wrote.


A poll by the Israeli website Walla on Wednesday predicted that a merger between Lapid and Gantz would bring them virtually neck-and-neck with Netanyahu, who it projected would win 33 percent of the vote.

Gantz said Netanyahu has "lost touch with Zionism and his dignity".

Moshe Yaalon, a former defence minister, had previously joined Israel Resilience and another ex-military chief of staff, Gaby Ashkenazi, will also join the new alliance, the centrist parties said on Thursday.

While Gantz and Lapid worked out their deal, Netanyahu helped negotiate the merger of two far-right parties, Jewish Home and Jewish Power, which could give followers of the late anti-Arab rabbi, Meir Kahane, a stronger voice in politics. For the first two thirds of the term Lapid would be foreign minister with defense minister reserved for Moshe Yaalon.

"The party will put forward a new leadership team which will guarantee the security of Israel and will reunite the divided elements of Israeli society".

Should their new party find success at the ballot boxes in April, it would still require a parliamentary majority. In a statement following his alliance with Lapid it said: "The choice is clear".

Likud has been trying to paint Gantz, whose security positions hew close to Netanyahu's, as a reckless leftist whose government would have to depend on the support of Arab parties.

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