Blue and White’s Ya’alon rules out merger with other parties ahead of election
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Blue and White’s Ya’alon rules out merger with other parties ahead of election

‘We don’t need that,’ former defense minister says of potential alliances; top MK Ofer Shelah also says party will keep same lineup for September elections

From right to left: Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya'alon, and Gabi Ashkenazi at a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
From right to left: Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya'alon, and Gabi Ashkenazi at a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blue and White’s No. 3 Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday ruled out the party running with other center-left lists in September’s Knesset elections, echoing party No. 2 Yair Lapid.

Talk of a potential center-left alliance has grown over the past week following former prime minister Ehud Barak’s return to politics. Barak, who has yet to name his new party, is reportedly seeking to team up with Labor, Meretz and Blue and White under one unified slate.

Reactions among Blue and White members to the prospect of teaming up with Barak have been mixed. While former army chief Gabi Ashkenazi said he was open to the notion, Lapid rejected such a possibility.

“We don’t need a tie-up with any party,” Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon said at a cultural event in Modiin. “We don’t need that.”

Ya’alon expressed respect for Barak but said the former premier was “interested in alliances on the left,” while only Blue and White “is an alternative to the government.”

Blue and White leaders Yair Lapid (R) and Moshe Ya’alon at a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon said the party would keep the same electoral slate from April’s vote and sought to downplay reports that he opposes the deal struck between Lapid and party leader Benny Gantz ahead of the last election, under which the two would rotate the premiership between them should Blue and White form the next government.

“We are opinionated people, we talk, we argue… we made a decision to keep the same format with the rotation,” he said.

According to television reports last month, Ya’alon is also concerned Lapid’s aggressive campaigning against ultra-Orthodox parties over religious and other social issues is pushing away potential voters.

Ya’alon heads the Telem party, which teamed up with Gantz’s Israel Resilience party and Lapid’s Yesh Atid to form Blue and White ahead of this year’s first round of elections. He is considered to be further right than most members of the centrist alliance.

Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah (L) speaks with Israeli journalist Tal Schneider during a cultural event in the northern city of Baqa al-Gharbiya on July 6, 2019. (Courtesy)

Meanwhile, Ofer Shelah, a top Blue and White MK, appeared to take a shot at Barak.

“I hope that other parties that profess an interest in helping replace the government won’t conduct themselves according to personal whims and unfounded pretensions for the premiership or ministerial positions, but in accordance with one guideline: what will bring victory,” he said at an event in the northern city of Baqa al-Gharbiya.

Shelah also confirmed that Blue and White will keep the same electoral lineup for the September 17 elections.

Reports of Barak’s interest in a united center-left list came after the ex-prime minister said that the size of the overall bloc was more important than that of an individual party.

While Barak hasn’t explicitly said he should head the prospective center-left alliance, he also hasn’t publicly suggested anyone else should.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak at a press conference announcing his return to politics ahead of national elections in September, Tel Aviv, June 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Polls over the past week have given Blue and White 29-31 seats, slightly behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. One survey gave Barak’s party six seats, while another said he would fail to pick up the 3.25 percent of the vote needed to enter the 120-member Knesset.

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