Parts of the left-center bloc continued to strive toward uniting ranks Saturday as two of its three key leaders, Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich, made statements strongly in favor of formally working together, which they asserted could lead to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s replacement. However, a time and date for a meeting between the three main center-left leaders — Yachimovich of Labor, Livni of Hatnua and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid — had yet to be set.
Opinion polls show Netanyahu heading for victory in the January 22 elections, with his Likud-Beytenu alliance set to win some 34-37 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Labor, which is polling at about 18 seats, Hatnua (about 9 in most polls) and Yesh Atid (9-10 in most polls), have hitherto failed to agree on a formal alliance, which could include deciding as a bloc whether to enter a Netanyahu-led government, but Livni and Yachimovich seem to be moving toward some kind of partnership.
Labor’s announcement on Thursday “that we would not sit in a coalition with Netanyahu and (Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor) Liberman), that we refuse to surrender to defeatism, that it is possible to defeat Netanyahu … has made positive and exciting waves and aroused many hopes for change,” said Yachimovich on Saturday.
The Labor party chair congratulated former foreign minister Livni on her Friday statement publicly inviting Yachimovich, Lapid and Kadima chair Shaul Mofaz to meet with her on Saturday night to discuss how to work together. Yachimovich said, however, that the meeting would not take place on Saturday as planned.
She explained that “unfortunately, despite the on-camera invitation,” Livni said she would not be able to meet on that date. “That’s why no meeting was scheduled.” Still, Yachimovich said she would do “everything in her power” to ensure that a meeting took place soon.
The Labor party head once again called on “all those who wish to instate a just society, a fair economy, a political process, rule of law and true democracy here” to announce that they would not sit in Netanyahu’s coalition, just as she had done.
“Any other statement would be construed as a spin and as gibberish, and as an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too,” said Yachimovich.
“There is no point in wasting time,” she added.
Yesh Atid’s Lapid said Saturday that he had spoken to both Yachimovich and Livni and agreed to meet with them. He added, however, that he had “no intention of joining” an anti-Netanyahu bloc, as he was “not in the habit of ostracizing people or parties.” Indeed, he said he would suggest that a center-left bloc should agree to join a government led by Netanyahu in order to prevent it from becoming “a government of the ultra-Orthodox and extreme right-wing which will once again take the earnings of the middle class and distribute them among yeshivas and illegal outposts.”
Livni, meanwhile, announced Saturday that she had spoken with Lapid and that he had agreed to take part in the “meeting that we will conduct in the coming days to consider establishing a ‘united front’ which will work together to replace Netanyahu.”
The Hatnua leader said she was “happy” Lapid had answered the call.
“We are facing a real opportunity to create change,” said Livni. “I invite you to join Hatnua (literally ‘the movement’) and help us at it. Hope will triumph,” she said, in an obvious allusion to Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva” (“the hope”).
“When people see me, Shelly, Yair, Mofaz and all those who understand that these are times of trouble, united in the goal of replacing Netanyahu – all those people who have given up will go out and vote,” Livni said. “It isn’t written in the stars that Netanyahu will become prime minister. Together we are bigger than Likud-Beytenu, which are in decline. These are times of trouble for Israel and we must unite against the alliance of extremists formed by Likud-Beytenu, the ultra-Orthodox and the Jewish Home party.”