A late-night meeting Sunday between party leaders Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and Shelly Yachimovich ended with talk of a “good atmosphere,” according to a joint statement issued by the participants, but with no announcement of a political alliance.
The three met at an undisclosed location to discuss the formation of a center-left coalition to more effectively challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in elections later this month.
The heads of Hatnua (The Movement), Yesh Atid and Labor chose to keep details regarding the meeting secret as they sought to reach an agreement over a united political front.
The meeting ended shortly after 1 a.m. local time on Monday with no major announcement.
“There was a good atmosphere at the meeting,” read the joint statement. “We discussed the dangers inherent in a radical government. We agreed to return and talk further whenever necessary.”
Elections for the 19th Knesset are scheduled for January 22. Netanyahu’s Likud party, campaigning on a joint list with former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, has been leading in the polls for months, but has gradually been losing votes, with the right-wing Jewish Home party — resurgent under its new leader Naftali Bennett – the main beneficiary.
Likud-Beytenu has been polling at about 34 seats, far fewer than the combined 42 seats the two parties held in the outgoing Knesset, while Jewish Home is at about 14 seats (in the last Knesset, Jewish Home had three seats, and the National Union, with which it has since merged, held four seats).
On the center-left, Labor is scoring about 18 seats in the polls, Yesh Atid about 10, and Hatnua about 9. Livni on Friday called for the three center-left parties to work as a bloc — to oust Netanyahu if possible and, if not, then to decide as one whether to join a Netanyahu-led coalition.
Yachimovich on Thursday ruled out the possibility of bringing Labor into a Netanyahu-led government, but backed the idea of a center-left bloc. Lapid said Saturday that the three center-left parties should all join a Netanyahu-led coalition, in order to reduce ultra-Orthodox and hardline right-wing leverage. He had earlier said Yesh Atid would not be the “fifth wheel” in a right-wing/ultra-Orthodox coalition.
Kadima, another center-left party, which was the largest faction in the last Knesset with 28 seats, is looking increasingly unlikely to win any seats at all this time. Its leader Shaul Mofaz nonetheless has backed the idea of a center-left alliance, as has the far-left Meretz party, which polls show heading for 4-5 seats.