Levy-Abekasis: No merger with Gantz after his ‘weird, hallucinatory’ behavior

Gesher leader blasts retired general’s behavior during alliance talks, says he failed the ‘credibility test’; Israel Resilience says it respects her decision

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

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis announced Wednesday that her Gesher party would run alone in the upcoming national elections, after failing to reach a merger agreement with former military chief Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience.

Reports in recent days indicated Levy-Abekasis was nearing an agreement on a joint run in April’s Knesset elections with Gantz, who has emerged as the main contender to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but is still polling well behind the ruling Likud.

Levy-Abekasis said negotiations fell apart despite her having reached written agreements with Gantz that included Israel Resilience’s adoption of Gesher’s socioeconomic platform as one of the alliance’s main campaign planks, as well as which spots on a unified list her party members would receive.

“To our amazement, since [reaching] these agreements… a bizarre scampering around started in Israel Resilience, accompanied by the spreading of disinformation and biased briefings to the media, a sort of game of hide-and-seek as if there hadn’t been discussions between us,” she said in a statement.

Israel Resilience party chief Benny Gantz speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 19, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Levy-Abekasis issued stinging criticism of Gantz himself, saying he had failed the “credibility test” and calling his behavior “weird and hallucinatory.”

“It is unfortunately to discover that the man who was expected to manage Israel turns out to be managed by others,” she said.

She also stressed the idea of a merger between the parties was first floated by Gantz.

In response, the Israel Resilience party issued a statement saying it respected Levy-Abekasis’ decision to withdraw from talks.

“Levy is an important leader and she unfortunately chose to leave the dialogue unilaterally. We respect her decision,” the statement read.

The announcement came shortly after Israeli television reported that Levy-Abekasis had cancelled her appearance at an election event in order to continue talks with Gantz ahead of Thursday’s deadline for parties to finalize their list of candidates.

While failing to unite with Levy-Abekasis, Gantz continued to hold talks Wednesday with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid on a potential tie-up.

As negotiations with Israel Resilience continued, Gesher held off on submitting its list to the Central Elections Committee on Wednesday, alongside a number of other parties, though Levy-Abekasis rolled out her slate of prospective candidates.

The list includes Yifat Bitton, a law professor and social activist; Hagai Reznik, the former director-general of the Housing Ministry; David “Dadi” Perlmutter, a former vice president of Intel; Liat Yakir, a geneticist; Dan Shaham, a former diplomat and Foreign Ministry official; Hagai Lavi, an educator; Michal Hirsch Negri, the former director-general of the Ra’anana Municipality; Gilad Samama, the director-general of the Social Equality Ministry; and Carmel Elmakayes, a social activist.

Levy-Abekasis hailed her slate as “an impressive, high quality and diverse list of true public servants.”

The list published by Gesher did not indicate in what spot each candidate would be placed.

Levy-Abekasis entered the Knesset in 2009 as a member of Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, but split off from the party after it joined Netanyahu’s in 2016.

Recent polls have put Gesher hovering around the electoral threshold, raising the possibility that it could fail to enter the Knesset if it runs alone.

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