With preelection maneuvering in full swing, reports surfaced early Friday that Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz was set to join the Labor Party.
The NRG news site reported that Mofaz had met with Labor chief Isaac Herzog, who promised him a place in the top five spots on the Labor Party’s list. According to reports, Mofaz demanded another spot on the list for a candidate of his choice, but did not receive it.
An agreement is expected to be signed soon. Mofaz is a former IDF chief of the General Staff, who previously served as a defense minister in the Likud party.
The question remains what former justice minister and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni will do. NRG reported that Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid had offered her and her colleague’s four spots on his party’s list.
Herzog and Livni are expected to conduct intensive meetings this coming week while they are both in Washington, DC.
On Thursday, the Yesh Atid party accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of attempting to split apart the centrist party in a last-ditch effort to salvage the ruling coalition and avoid elections.
The allegations were swiftly denied by the prime minister, but sources in the Likud conceded that such an attempt had been made, according to a report in the Ynet news outlet.
Likud officials have been trying since Wednesday to convince some members of Yesh Atid to break away from Lapid and form a new party, which would then join the coalition with the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Ynet reported.
“If Yesh Atid wants to survive, they need to get up and split now and prevent elections,” a senior Likud member said, according to Ynet. “There have been a few conversations, but as of now, and primarily due to the Yesh Atid MKs’ lack of political understanding, it seems the matter is not coming to fruition.”
The charge came a day after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and party leaders set new elections for March 17, following the collapse of the coalition.
Without Yesh Atid, the current coalition has 49 of its required 61 seats for a Knesset majority.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu went on the offensive, alleging that he was forced to end the coalition because Lapid and Livni, both of whom he fired, had attempted a “putsch.”
Lapid responded Wednesday, saying Netanyahu had “whined” to the Israeli public “that people tried to organize a ‘putsch’ against you, something which never happened… That’s not even disconnected, that’s living in a fantasy world. I tried to overthrow you? Do you hear yourself? Who sold you that absurdity? And what caused you to listen to it?”
Rather than he and Livni trying to build an alternative coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, it was Netanyahu, Lapid said, who had “cut a deal with the ultra-Orthodox: You promised to cancel the equality of the national burden [i.e., the ultra-Orthodox draft law], to increase the budget for yeshivas, to cancel the study of core subjects in their schools.”
Sources in the ultra-Orthodox factions have told Israeli media they were approached about forming an alternative coalition, but have refused to say who approached them.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.