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Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope files election slate, heavy with ex-Likud MKs

Party files a day before deadline ahead of March election, also in top 16 are a former Blue and White MK, and two Derech Eretz MKs

(L-R) New Hope candidates MK Tzvi Hauser, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton and Jerusalem council member Ofer Berkovitch present the party's slate for the March 2021 election to the Central Elections Committee, February 3, 2021. (New Hope)
(L-R) New Hope candidates MK Tzvi Hauser, MK Yifat Shasha-Biton and Jerusalem council member Ofer Berkovitch present the party's slate for the March 2021 election to the Central Elections Committee, February 3, 2021. (New Hope)

Former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party filed its party slate Wednesday evening, rounding off the major parties to register for March’s election on the first of two days to do so.

With six former Likud MKs and ministers, one former Blue and White MK, and two Derech Eretz MKs in his party’s top 16, Sa’ar, who hopes to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the premiership called the slate “a united national list which reflects the diverse face of Israel. It is a mosaic of Israeli society, in terms of gender, geography, age, cultural, and social groups.”

“As we compiled this New Hope list of excellent candidates, so we will connect Israel and lead towards a future of stability and unity for Israel,” he said after the slate was presented to the central elections committee by his party candidates.

Behind Sa’ar on the slate is former Likud minister and chair of the Knesset coronavirus committee MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, followed by fellow former Likud minister Ze’ev Ekin in third place. Derech Eretz faction leader MK Yoaz Hendel is in fourth place, with former Likud MK Sharren Haskel rounding up the top five.

Benny Begin, former Likud minister and the son of former Likud prime minister Menachem Begin, is in sixth place followed by Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy in seventh and Derech Eretz MK Zvi Hauser in eighth. Former Likud MK Michal Shir and former Blue and White MK Hila Shay Vazan are respectively in the ninth and 10th places.

Gideon Sa’ar seen at a Likud event in Hod Hasharon, November 25, 2019. Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A total of 18 parties submitted their lists of candidates Wednesday, as a number of major parties finally ruled out further mergers with others, and several small factions quit the race.

The slates can be handed to the Central Elections Committee until Thursday at midnight, meaning that parties have just one day left to finalize potential mergers, or to announce they aren’t running. Any party that has submitted its slate cannot change it.

In an antiquated and at-times bizarre process, new parties compete for the free letters not already in use by existing parties to appear on their ballot slips; these are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. The last of the parties to register are therefore often forced to take obscure pairings of letters that make little sense and have no relation to their party name.

Yair Lapid (left) and Benny Gantz speak to supporters in Tel Aviv, on February 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The first party to submit its slate Wednesday was the center-left Yesh Atid, which is shaping up in opinion polls to be the main challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership as the second-largest party after Likud.

Another party to submit its list early was Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White, which got 14 seats in the previous election — as part of an alliance with Yesh Atid that got 33 seats in total — but is now teetering on the edge of extinction after Gantz broke his central campaign promise not to join a Netanyahu-led government.

Blue and White, with Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata at center, presents its candidates’ list for the March 23, 2021 election to the Central Elections Committee, in the Knesset, February 3, 2021 (GPO)

The submission of the slate means Blue and White will not be merging with any other party, risking slipping under the electoral threshold.

The right-wing Yamina party led by Naftali Bennett also registered its slate, as did Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu.

Meanwhile, former Labor MK Danny Yatom, who recently formed a senior citizens party, said the party would not run in the election due to budget constraints and the unwillingness of other center-left parties to merge with it.

The elections will be held on March 23, and will be Israel’s fourth national vote in under two years after the first two were deadlocked and the third yielded a short-lived unity government between Netanyahu and Gantz.

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