Centrist parties swipe at each other amid talk of merger

Centrist parties swipe at each other amid talk of merger

Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen says Moshe Ya’alon asked to join party during ‘shopping trip’ for new political home; Israel Resilience and Telem hit back: ‘There is no future in lies’

Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen speaks at a cultural event in Kfar Saba on February 2, 2019. (Flash90)
Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen speaks at a cultural event in Kfar Saba on February 2, 2019. (Flash90)

A lawmaker from the centrist Yesh Atid party on Saturday said that Moshe Ya’alon, the former Likud defense minister, went on a “shopping trip” for a new political home, before joining forces with Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party.

The swipe by MK Meir Cohen comes amid growing pressure on Yesh Atid to team up with Israel Resilience for the upcoming Knesset elections, as polls show such an alliance with Gantz at the helm could defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party.

A merger of the two centrist parties is said to face considerable headwinds. Lapid hasn’t indicated he would be willing to be No.2 to Gantz, though a Channel 12 poll said an alliance under Lapid’s leadership wouldn’t defeat Likud.

“I want to tell you about the embarrassing shopping trip that Bogie [Ya’alon] made to all the parties, including Yesh Atid just two months ago,” Cohen said at a cultural event in Beersheba, using Ya’alon’s nickname.

“If he would have gotten everything he wanted, he would have followed after Yair Lapid everywhere, [but] the moment we told him no, he attacked Lapid,” Cohen said, adding “he should be ashamed.”

Ya’alon, who, like Gantz, is a former IDF chief, announced in December that he would form a new party, Telem, and last month reached a deal with Gantz to run on a joint electoral slate.

Former chief of staff Benny Gantz (C-R) and his electoral ally, former defense minister Moshe Yaalon, alongside their volunteers sing the Israeli national anthem during a rally in Tel Aviv on January 29, 2019. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Israel Resilience and Telem dismissed Cohen’s remarks in a statement, playing on Yesh Atid’s name, which means “there is a future” in Hebrew.

“It is unfortunate that there are those in Yesh Atid who are under pressure and spreading falsehoods. Ya’alon did not ask to join Yesh Atid, the discussion dealt only with checking the possibility of a tie-up between the parties,” the statement said.

“We hope that Meir Cohen will internalize there is a future in alliances. There is no future in lies,” the statement added.

Despite criticizing Ya’alon, Cohen left the door open to joining Gantz, but said he wanted to hear more “essence” from the ex-general, whom critics say has been vague on his political views.

“Gantz is a worthy and moral person… beyond questions of who is in the number one spot and who is number two, we need to hear more essence,” Cohen said.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks during an event hosted by the Movement for the Quality of Government, in Modi’in, on February 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Cohen believes only Lapid should be the leader of any centrist bloc and pointed to his and other Yesh Atid lawmakers’ experience in government when the party sat in a coalition with Netanyahu from 2013-15.

Yesh Atid and Israel Resilience have until February 21 to agree on forming an alliance, the date when factions must submit their final list of candidates to the Central Elections Committee for the April 9 vote.

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