With pre-election maneuvering in full swing, reports indicated Friday that the Labor Party headed by Isaac Herzog and the Hatnua party led by former justice minister Tzipi Livni were considering running together in the March 2015 elections.
Livni and Herzog were said to have discussed the possibility over the past few days, Israel Radio reported. According to Channel 10, Livni would get the number two spot on the list and two more seats for party members Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz among the top 10.
A Globes poll gave a Labor-Hatnua alliance 24 seats, Channel 10 said.
Livni and Herzog have set out to Washington to participate in the annual Saban Forum, a gathering of politicians, academics, business leaders and journalists, for talks on US-Israel ties and issues pertaining to the Middle East.
Herzog posted a picture of himself and Livni before the flight, which set off the rumor mill Friday.
Earlier Friday, an NRG report indicated that Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz was set to join the Labor Party.
According to the report, Mofaz had met with Herzog, who promised him a place in the top five spots on the Labor Party’s list. Mofaz reportedly demanded another spot on the list for a candidate of his choice, but did not receive it.
An agreement is expected to be signed soon. Mofaz is a former IDF chief of staff, who previously served as a defense minister in the Likud party.
Meanwhile, both the Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom dailies reported Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet completely given up on the idea of assembling an alternative coalition, and avoiding altogether the elections he publicly called for. The Knesset will on Monday pass the second and third readings of the bill to dissolve itself, with elections set for March 17, but both papers quoted anonymous sources claiming Netanyahu was trying to avoid that process.
Yisrael Hayom quoted ultra-Orthodox officials saying they had been approached to join a new coalition, preempting elections. The paper also asserted that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, hitherto opposed to such alliances, may be changing his mind.
For its part, Haaretz quoted opposition sources insisting Netanyahu is seeking to build a new coalition and avoid elections. “I have no doubts that up until the last moment, Netanyahu will try to forge an alternative coalition rather than going to elections,” a senior Yesh Atid member told the paper. “Netanyahu has the opportunity to remain in his position for three years without elections, so why would he risk losing his reign, and embark on this dangerous adventure?”
There was no confirmation of any of these reports. And Liberman was quoted late Thursday ruling out any such coalition.
In other election news, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar was reported in several Hebrew media outlets to be weighing a return to politics to challenge Netanyahu for the Likud leadership and the prime ministership. Likud supporters had urged him to consider the idea, and he had “not rejected it,” Army Radio reported Friday morning.
In the right-wing Jewish Home, MK Ayelet Shaked said her party would seek control of the Justice Ministry in a new coalition.
Jewish Home and the Likud were also said to have signed a “surplus votes” agreement — to ensure that no votes cast for the two parties would be lost when the Knesset seats are allocated after elections under Israel’s system of pure proportional representation.
On Tuesday, Labor’s Herzog called for centrist and left-leaning parties to rally around him and appealed to Livni and Mofaz to align themselves with Labor.
According to reports, Livni was also fielding an offer from Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid who proposed giving Livni and her colleagues four spots on his party’s list.
Lapid and Livni were sacked as finance minister and justice minister, respectively, on Tuesday, moments before Netanyahu announced that he would move to dissolve the Knesset and go to elections.
On Wednesday, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and party leaders set new elections for March 17.
Netanyahu alleged that he was forced to end the coalition because Lapid and Livni had attempted a “putsch.” This was denied by both ministers. Lapid said Netanyahu’s allegation was “an absurdity.”
According to a Ynet report, Likud officials have been trying since Wednesday to convince some members of Yesh Atid to break away from Lapid and form a new party, which would then join the coalition with the two ultra-Orthodox parties.
“If Yesh Atid wants to survive, they need to get up and split now and prevent elections,” a senior Likud member said, according to Ynet. “There have been a few conversations, but as of now, and primarily due to the Yesh Atid MKs’ lack of political understanding, it seems the matter is not coming to fruition.”