Labor, Meretz slam Lapid, warn his ‘irresponsible’ campaign could make Netanyahu PM

Left-wing parties say premier’s siphoning of their votes is pushing them perilously close to threshold; meanwhile, Yesh Atid source says party will not let Gantz be prime minister

Meretz chair Zehava Galon, in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Meretz chair Zehava Galon, in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Labor and Meretz left-wing parties denounced Prime Minister Yair Lapid Wednesday over his election campaign strategy, accusing him of seeking to increase the strength of his own party at the expense of their own, a tactic that is pushing his allies dangerously close to the electoral threshold.

If either Meretz or Labor fall below the 3.25 percent threshold and fail to enter the Knesset, the rival right-religious bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu would almost certainly get a parliamentary majority.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon warned her party’s members and Knesset candidates that recent polls have shown “a clear trend of a shift to Lapid out of a desire to strengthen the larger party,” Hebrew media reported.

In a Tuesday phone call, Galon told them that Lapid “is making a tremendous mistake” and that his efforts would only benefit Netanyahu.

“This calculation will elevate Netanyahu to power, it is nearly certain,” Galon said of Lapid’s strategy. “Meretz is in real danger.”

There was similar criticism from the Labor party which, like Meretz, has been polling at 4-5 seats in recent opinion polls. The minimal number of seats for a party to enter the Knesset is 4.

A senior Labor party member called Lapid’s campaign “irresponsible,” the Ynet news site reported.

“It would be better if he acted to grow the power of the bloc by attracting votes from the other [opposition] bloc than by going head to head with us and Meretz,” the Labor member said.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks at the Movement for the Quality of Government conference in Tel Aviv, October 25, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flas90)

With less than a week to go before the November 1 election, there has also been feuding between Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and its largest ally, the center-right National Unity party led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Noting that polls predict Lapid’s bloc will not have enough seats to form a majority, Gantz has recently positioned himself as the potential next prime minister, saying he would build a coalition by prying ultra-Orthodox parties away from Netanyahu’s camp, though Haredi politicians have dismissed such a scenario.

Yesh Atid sources told the Kan public broadcaster that Lapid’s party would never sit in a Gantz-led government and that he is “living in a fantasy” if he thinks this could happen.

“It is about time that Gantz accepts the fact that Lapid is the leader of the bloc and he will form the government,” a source told the station. “If Gantz wants to bring in the ultra-Orthodox, he is welcome to bring them to a Lapid government. There will be no other government in the center-left bloc.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (R), Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C) and Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L) (Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who leads the New Hope faction within the National Unity party, told Kan in response to the remarks that Yesh Atid is under pressure because “Lapid can’t form a government in any scenario.”

Sa’ar said he is confident that if Gantz is in a position to form a government, “we will reach understandings that enable it to be established.”

The upcoming election — the fifth since April 2019 — was called after the collapse in June of then-prime minister Naftali Bennett’s power-sharing government with Lapid, which survived for just a year after managing to unseat Netanyahu in June 2021.

When their government collapsed, Lapid took over as prime minister and Bennett subsequently retired.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, is seeking to regain power as he stands trial on corruption charges, while Lapid looks to retain the premiership after making the jump from journalism to politics a decade ago.

Most Popular
read more: