Opposition chief MK Isaac Herzog called for centrist and left-leaning parties to rally around him and form a bloc to defeat Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in upcoming elections, as talk of a return to the polls ramped up Tuesday.
Herzog, who heads the Labor Party, appealed to Hatnua leader Justice Minister Tzipi Livni as well as Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz to align themselves with Labor and declared that forming a united front was key to his campaign strategy.
“I am capable of replacing Netanyahu. I will do everything in order to establish a bloc before the elections,” he said in an interview with the Ynet News website.
Herzog’s comments came with the government on the verge of calling early elections, as the less-than-two-year-old coalition collapsed amid infighting between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
Herzog criticized Netanyahu for leading a failed government, but did not mention Livni, whose Hatnua party also joined the coalition.
“The writing was on the wall for a long time,” he said. “This was a government in which all of its components failed at leading the country. No one can wash his hands of that. These are two people [presumably referring to Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party] who brought down the country in every area. At the end of the day, the responsibility lies at Netanyahu’s doorstep.”
On Tuesday, Likud sources said the party would formally support a bill to dissolve the Knesset and go to elections in a preliminary vote in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.
Labor currently holds 15 Knesset seats, Hatnua has six, and Kadima has two.
A poll published on Sunday by the Haaretz daily — which assumed a new party under former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon would run in elections — found that Labor would drop three seats, Hatnua would win just four seats, and Kadima would not make it past the minimum threshold. Such a result would give Herzog’s bloc just 16 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset.
The survey predicted that the Likud would score 24 seats in the elections, six more than its current tally.
The third Netanyahu government has been beset by infighting from its very start 18 months ago. Tensions boiled over in the latest fight over the budget and the “Jewish state” bill, which the prime minister has vowed to advance despite vociferous objections by Lapid and Livni.
At a meeting between Lapid and Netanyahu Monday night, Netanyahu insisted that Lapid accept five demands, including the transfer of billions of shekels in added funds for the Israel Defense Forces and the cancellation of Lapid’s flagship and controversial affordable housing program. Lapid refused, and the tense meeting ended with both sides announcing that the other had forced “unnecessary” elections on the country.