Lapid said to propose alliance with Gantz, in which they’d take turns as leader

Recent polls show that a Yesh Atid-Israel Resilience merger could garner more Knesset seats than the ruling Likud

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)

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid is said to have offered former IDF chief Benny Gantz, who heads the new Israel Resilience party, a political merger that would see the two leaders alternating as chair of their alliance, Channel 12 reported on Saturday.

Recent polls have indicated that a merger between Israel Resilience and Yesh Atid would garner more Knesset seats than the ruling Likud party in the upcoming national elections, set for April 9.

One poll, by Channel 13 on Thursday, indicated that a united Gantz-Lapid list would win 36 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, ahead of Likud with 32. But even though this would be the largest party, this poll indicated, such an alliance could probably still not be able to form a government as it would not have enough coalition partners.

Efforts to form the Gantz-Lapid alliance have reportedly been ongoing.

The Israel Resilience party declined to comment on the report Saturday. Yesh Atid said vaguely that negotiations are conducted face-to-face “and anyone who claims to know what is being said is wrong and misleading.”

According to Saturday’s TV report, Yesh Atid believes the leadership “rotation” offer is generous, but Israel Resilience is not sold on the idea as polls have shown that Gantz’s party would gain twice as many seats in the Knesset as Yesh Atid. Recent surveys have put Gantz’s Israel Resilience at about 22 seats, with Yesh Atid at around 11 seats.

A survey aired by Channel 12 last week suggested a tie-up with Lapid could beat Likud in April’s Knesset elections with Gantz at the helm. The same poll showed that an alliance under Lapid’s leadership would not defeat Likud.

Members of Lapid’s party have reportedly pointed to a generous agreement Gantz has made with former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem, a party that wasn’t predicted to enter the Knesset had it run independently, and are demanding a similarly generous agreement.

Hebrew news site Walla reported Saturday that Gantz does not see the strategic merit of allying himself with Lapid and that he was aiming for a possible alliance with MK Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party.

The Channel 13 poll from Thursday indicated that a Gantz-Lapid alliance would not see the center-left win enough seats to block another right-wing Likud-led government, and that the center and the left would fare better as a bloc if Gantz instead united with Levy-Abekasis, and the left-wing Labor merged with the far-left Meretz.

The Thursday poll showed the New Right getting nine seats and the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, getting six each in this scenario, while Labor would get only five seats and Meretz and Gesher would fail to cross the electoral threshold (which stands at 3.25 percent of the votes). The Joint (Arab) list would drop to 6 seats. Such an outcome would see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu better placed than the Gantz-Lapid partnership to build a majority coalition, Channel 13 said.

Running separately, the same poll found that Gantz’s Israel Resilience would get 24 seats and Lapid would get 10. However, Meretz would get four seats. In this scenario, Likud would get 32 seats, the New Right would get nine, the Joint (Arab) List seven, MK Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al would get six,  Shas, UTJ, Jewish Home and Labor would each get five. Israel Beytenu and Kulanu would get four each. Gesher would still fall below the threshold.

Overall in this scenario, the center and left would win at least three more seats than if Gantz and Lapid ran together, according to the poll, which was conducted by Camil Fuchs and had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.

However, chances of a prospective merger between Levy-Abekasis and Gantz appeared to recede Thursday, after she was recorded blasting the Israel Resilience party and appearing to rule out the long-rumored option of joining forces.

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis at the Knesset on October 3, 2017 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Levy-Abekasis in 2016 quit Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beytenu party but remained in the parliament as an independent, recently forming Gesher.

Once considered a possible rising star in the upcoming Knesset vote, she has slumped in recent polls and, in some, fallen under the threshold.

Gantz and Levy have been reported to be interested in merging their parties, but in a recording from a closed conference broadcast Thursday by Channel 12, she said Gantz’s party platform was so badly written that her son could have done better when he was 12.

“I went to the party’s platform, it was one-and-a-half lines. My child could express himself better when he was in sixth-grade,” she said. “You aren’t respecting the public when that’s what you write in the platform.”

Levy-Abekasis added that she has received offers from various political parties, from Labor on the left to Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right, and even from Yisrael Beytenu, the party she quit.

“I don’t want to be part of this hypocrisy,” she told the participants. She accused other parties of only caring about security and the position of defense minister, neglecting social issues.

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