Former Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari has joined Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party Monday, three days before the February 4 deadline for submitting final slates of candidates to the Central Elections Committee ahead of the March vote.
“This is the most significant time for the state to change leadership and bring about a different government,” Ben-Ari said.
Lapid welcomed the former lawmaker to the party, saying that “in order to form a sane government, you need sane people next to you who come to work with the goal of producing a good, normal country, and to produce a good economy and good health, and get us back on track.”
Ben-Ari entered the Knesset in 2015, when the center-right Kulanu won 10 seats in parliament.
While there, she championed social-minded legislation and was known as an advocate for gender equality and LGBT rights. She has a young daughter she is raising with the father, a gay friend.
In 2019 she publicly criticized Lapid after a quip that went flat when he suggested that the few women candidates in his party lacked discipline.
“Are you serious? You are a candidate for prime minister. Such utterances are not funny,” Ben-Ari said at the time.
Lapid later responded with an apology, saying that “it was a poor joke.”
Ben-Ari was the latest high-profile name to join the party ahead of the March elections after former social equality minister Meirav Cohen left Blue and White to join Yesh Atid.
A Channel 12 poll released Sunday showed Yesh Atid and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party strengthening slightly over Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina.
Likud was predicted to win 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset; Yesh Atid 17; New Hope 14; Yamina 13; Joint List 10; Shas 8; United Torah Judaism 8; Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu 7; Labor 5; Meretz 4; and Blue and White 4.
The survey did not show a clear path to a majority coalition for any party. Likud and its longtime ultra-Orthodox allies would have 46 seats, far short of the 61 needed to form a majority. With the right-wing Yamina the bloc would still fall short, with 59 seats. It is unlikely that any other party would join a coalition led by Netanyahu.
An anti-Netanyahu coalition, meanwhile, would need to bridge significant differences to amass 61 seats by reconciling factions such as the right-wing New Hope and dovish Meretz.