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As Gantz rises in polls, Yesh Atid insists Lapid the ‘only answer’ to Netanyahu

Centrist party takes dig at ex-IDF chief after he launches campaign, says it’s ‘pleased to see Gantz is adopting parts of our manifesto’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, left, and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, right. (Flash90)
Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid, left, and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, right. (Flash90)

In its first response to former chief of staff Benny Gantz’s maiden political speech, Yesh Atid said Wednesday party leader Yair Lapid remains the only realistic challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“With due respect to Gantz the only question is who can beat Netanyahu and there are two important factors – who can go head to head with Netanyahu in the political arena and which party can go head to head with the Likud in the field. The only answer is Lapid and Yesh Atid,” a party source told The Times of Israel.

The comment came as a new poll said Gantz’s faction would finish well ahead of Yesh Atid as the second largest party after April’s Knesset elections, following the retired general’s first campaign speech on Tuesday and announcement of an electoral alliance with fellow former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon.

Gantz’s Israel Resilience and Yesh Atid had been neck-and-neck in polls as the second largest party, though trailing far behind Netanyahu’s Likud. Both Gantz and Lapid have sought to strike a centrist note in a bid to pickup center-right supporters from Likud.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz attends an electoral rally for his Israel Resilience party in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on January 29, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In a light dig at Gantz, the Yesh Atid source said the party was “pleased to see Gantz is adopting parts of our manifesto.”

“We hope he’ll also follow our lead on the rest of our manifesto including our detailed plan to fight corruption and the importance of everyone studying core curriculum subjects,” the source said.

Despite Yesh Atid’s defiant stance, polls have indicated an alliance with Gantz could present a serious challenge to Netanyahu.

According to the survey released Wednesday by the Walla news site, a joint list that included Gantz, Lapid and former IDF chief of staff of Gabi Ashkenazi would receive 33 seats, topping Likud’s 27.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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