Former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, head of the new Kulanu party, has refused an offer by Yesh Atid party chief Yair Lapid to merge the two parties in a joint ticket in the coming general elction, Haaretz reported Tuesday night.
Recent polls have given Yesh Atid around 10 seats in the next Knesset, down from 19 in the current one. Kahlon’s Kulanu is polling at around 10-13 seats.
Lapid reportedly believes merging the two parties would boost the prospects for both in the coming election, and even give them a good shot at forming the next coalition government. According to a recent poll conducted by Yesh Atid, a union with Kulanu would yield between 24 and 28 mandates, Channel 10 reported Friday.
According to the Haaretz report, however, Kahlon — riding on a wave of popular support as Lapid’s electoral power erodes — is intent on running independently.
Lapid has been rumored to be courting Kahlon in a bid to form a strong centrist bloc ahead of the March 17 election.
Lapid’s party, according to reports, was also pursuing Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, once a strong ally of the Likud. The latter two parties ran on a joint ticket in the 2013 elections.
On Thursday, Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen revealed that Lapid and Liberman held talks in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a merger deal between their parties, adding that Kahlon was considering joining forces with them.
However, Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu later each issued separate denials of the reports, insisting that there were no merger negotiations between the two parties.
Even if the parties do not merge, they could conceivably cooperate in other ways, including presenting a united front on whom to recommend for the premiership following the elections, and agreeing not to target each other during the campaign.