Gantz and Lapid in talks to unite, decision ‘within 2 weeks,’ says Yesh Atid MK

Likud MK says his party has ‘made a mistake’ in going after former IDF chief, calls him ‘worthy’; Labor head Gabbay rules out alliance with Meretz

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid (L) and Israel Resilience party chief Benny Gantz. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90, Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid (L) and Israel Resilience party chief Benny Gantz. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90, Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A leading member of the centrist opposition party, Yesh Atid, said Saturday his party was holding talks with Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party on the possibility of joining forces in the April 9 election.

“Conversations are being held between [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz and a decision will come in the next two weeks,” MK Ofer Shelah said.

But he insisted that “the most established government alternative in Israel is Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid, and it needs to lead those who want to change the government.”

Gantz formally launched his Israel Resilience party’s election campaign last Tuesday, when he also announced an electoral alliance with fellow former IDF chief and ex-Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

MK Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid. (Flash90)

Polls released the day after showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud leading with around 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, followed by Israel Resilience with 21-24 seats. One survey indicated Gantz was polling neck-and-neck with Netanyahu as the public’s preferred choice of prime minister.

That same poll also said Gantz could defeat Netanyahu if he led an alliance with Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid — with 35 seats to Likud’s 30 —  though Lapid has not indicated he would be willing to be second in such a tie-up.

Also on Saturday, a lawmaker from Likud said the party had made a mistake in going after Gantz.

Since formally entering politics in December, Gantz has been a frequent target of Likud and other right-wing factions, with the ruling party releasing a number of videos branding him “left-wing” and questioning his military career.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch chairs a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“It is good that Gantz entered politics. I’m in favor of worthy people in politics. I think we made a mistake by attacking him,” MK Yoav Kisch said at a cultural event in Kfar Saba, according to Channel 13 news.

Kisch distanced himself from videos attacking Gantz and said they only helped the retired general. “We need to focus on what we’ve done and bring that to the public,” he said.

Separately, the head of the Labor Party on Saturday ruled out an electoral alliance with the left-wing Meretz, as the onetime powerhouse in Israeli politics continues to slump to historic lows in pre-election polls.

Labor leader Avi Gabbay speaks during at a meeting in Haifa with municipal leaders from party on January 31, 2019. (Flash90)

“There are significant ideological gaps between us and Meretz,” Avi Gabbay said at a cultural event in Kfar Saba. “A tie-up between Labor and Meretz doesn’t increase the chance of replacing the government.”

With television polls earlier this week giving Labor an all-time low of just 6 seats, there have been growing calls for the party to team up with Meretz, which is projected to win around 5 seats in the April 9 election.

“What Israel needs is a definite left that is sure of itself,” Meretz head Tamar Zandberg said in response to Gabbay’s remarks. “This is the only alternative to the extreme and racist right. It is incredible that even as Labor under his leadership sinks, Gabbay continues to shirk the left.”

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, who Gabbay appointed as the Knesset’s opposition leader after dismantling the Zionist Union alliance with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua last month, dismissed prognostications of her party’s demise.

“I reject the forecasts of the Labor Party’s disappearance. We’ve already been in much tougher crises and emerged from them,” she said Saturday in Nes Tziona.

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