Levy-Abekasis clarifies she’s not in talks to merge with Gantz

Gesher party leader vows to go it alone as the head of an independent party focusing on social issues, rules out uniting with Israel Resilience or anybody else

Gesher party leader MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, speaks during an campaign event in Tel Aviv, February 5, 2019. (Flash90)
Gesher party leader MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, speaks during an campaign event in Tel Aviv, February 5, 2019. (Flash90)

The leader of the Gesher political party made it clear on Sunday that she is not in talks with Benny Gantz to unite with his Israel Resilience party in an effort to oust the ruling Likud party in the coming elections.

“There are currently no contacts between me and Benny Gantz,” MK Orly Levy-Abekasis told Channel 12 news.

“I am going to lead an independent slate because I think that real change will only come from a party that sees these things as a priority,” she said, speaking of her focus on social issues. “I can go it alone and I am going it alone.”

Levy-Abekasis said speculation of a partnership with Gantz was coming primarily from political pundits.

“I am not interested in becoming a minister in the next government — what interests me is how I can advance the things I am coming to change and to fight for,” she said. “When social issues are not at the forefront, I can’t be there.”

In a recording from a closed conference broadcast last Thursday by Channel 12, Levy-Abekasis slammed Gantz’s party platform.

She said it was so badly written that her son could have done better when he was 12.

Levy-Abekasis also revealed that she had received offers to form a union with various political parties, but she accused them all of only caring about security and about who will be defense minister, neglecting social issues.

Benny Gantz arrives to deliver his first electoral speech in Tel Aviv on January 29, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Recent polls have shown that by combining with other centrist or center-left parties Gantz could lead an alliance that would win more seats in the April 9 elections than the ruling Likud, but would still struggle to cobble together a coalition fielding at least 61 out of the 120 Knesset seats.

Channel 12 last month reported that Gantz had met personally with Levy-Abekasis in an effort to convince her to join forces with him, though not merge the two parties. Although at the time polls indicated her Gesher part would pass the Knesset threshold of 3.25 percent, more recent surveys have shown she is unlikely to clear that hurdle.

Levy-Abekasis first entered the Knesset nine years ago as a member of hawkish Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu. But in May 2016, she announced that she would leave the party over its entry into the government, saying that it had abandoned its social platform during negotiations to enter the coalition. She has since been serving as an independent MK in the opposition.

She is hard to classify politically, having made her name with activism on behalf of children, the elderly, and the poor. She has not yet specified who else would represent her party.

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