Gesher MK Orly Levy-Abekasis rejected reports Wednesday that she could defect from her Labor-Gesher-Meretz party to the right and help prop up a coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
With 99 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud was set to pick up 36 of the 120 Knesset seats, with the overall right-wing and religious bloc that supports him for premier adding up to 58 — three short of a majority.
Since Monday’s election, Likud has said it will seek to woo over lawmakers from across the aisle to join a Netanyahu-led government and avert a fourth round of elections in just over a year. Likud MK Miki Zohar and Netanyahu’s spokesman Jonatan Urich both said the party has already spoken to potential recruits outside the right-wing bloc.
Levy-Abekasis, formerly of the hawkish Yisrael Beytenu, was immediately named in news reports as a possible candidate for such a pivot, in exchange for a cabinet portfolio.
In a tweet Wednesday, Levy-Abekasis said the reports were “completely untrue. There aren’t and have not been any contacts with any political operatives. Everything that has been published thus far is nothing but spin.”
She also dismissed reports that her father, former Likud minister David Levy, could receive the right’s support for a presidential run should she choose to defect.
“The attempt to bring my father’s name into an offer is absurd, and could only occur to those who think anything can be bought.”
Levy-Abekasis sparked speculation about her future when she tweeted in the wake of the exit poll results late Monday that she “hopes to wake up tomorrow to a new era of action.” She removed the post a short time later, after journalists asked if it signaled an openness to splitting off and joining a right-wing coalition in order to give it a majority. “Nothing has changed, we’re continuing on our path,” a statement from her spokesperson said. Labor-Gesher-Meretz is expected to pick up seven Knesset seats in Monday’s votes.
Blue and White MK Meirav Cohen said Wednesday she had been approached by Likud and offered the pensioners or welfare portfolio, and turned down the offer.
“I despise the phenomenon of political defectors. In my view it’s a cynical, opportunistic step whose entire goal is to get some job,” she said in a video posted to Twitter.
“Political defectors are like disposable tableware — you use them and then you throw them in the trash,” she added.
Likud has also reportedly been eyeing several other lawmakers on the centrist list.
According to a report in the Haaretz daily on Tuesday, MK Omer Yankelevich, No. 23 on the Blue and White list, has been threatened that if she does not defect to a Likud-led coalition, embarrassing recordings by her party’s former strategic adviser will be released to the media.
According to Haaretz, Likud is in possession of recordings that “contain sensitive details” regarding Yankelevich’s personal life and is using them as leverage over her. The report quoted sources as saying that they had been told by the Blue and White lawmaker’s confidants that she was considering the offer.
Yankelevich, however, was quick to deny the report, tweeting, “All rumors, it won’t happen.”
Yankelevich’s fellow Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, both former aides to Netanyahu and members of the Telem faction within the party, have also denied reports they were mulling joining Likud.
“They haven’t approached us. They won’t approach us. And they know why,” Hendel tweeted.Hendel said that neither he nor Hauser have been asked to jump ship to the Likud party to allow the formation of a majority government.
Without the support of additional lawmakers, Netanyahu appears incapable of forming a governing coalition, keeping the country in political limbo despite three rounds of elections since April. Attempts by Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to negotiate a unity government failed following the September vote.