Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich became the latest lawmaker to be touted Tuesday as a possible turncoat ready to jump ship to Likud and boost the right-wing bloc, which is likely to require at least one or two extra seats to gain a parliamentary majority and form a government following Monday’s election.
With 90 percent of the votes counted, Likud held a four-seat lead over Blue and White, but the overall right-wing bloc appeared poised to take just 59 Knesset seats, two short of a majority.
According to a report in the Haaretz daily, Yankelevich, no. 23 on the Blue and White list, has been threatened that if she does not defect to a Likud-led coalition, more embarrassing recordings by her party’s former strategic adviser will be released to the media.
In recordings revealed last week by Channel 2, Israel Bachar, a senior adviser to Benny Gantz, Yankelevich was heard calling the Blue and White leader “a fool and a complete nobody” who is “not suitable to be prime minister.”
Bachar was fired by Gantz following the release of the tapes, in which he said the Blue and White leader, a former IDF chief of staff, “doesn’t have the courage to attack Iran.”
Channel 2 later aired further recordings it said showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in leaking of the original tape, despite his original denial.
According to Haaretz, Likud is in possession of additional recordings that “contain sensitive details” regarding Yankelevich’s personal life and is using them as leverage over her.
The report quoted sources as saying that they had been told by the Blue and White lawmaker’s confidants that she was considering the offer.
Yankelevich, however, was quick to deny the report, tweeting, “All rumors, it won’t happen.”
In August last year, a report in the Israel Hayom daily claimed that Yankelevich had explored the possibility of jumping ship to the New Right. Yankelevich denied the report.
Tuesday’s report came after Likud MK Miki Zohar and Netanyahu’s spokesman Jonatan Ulrich both said the party has already spoken to potential recruits outside the right-wing bloc.
Yankelevich’s fellow Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, both former aides to Netanyahu and members of the Telem faction within the party, have also denied reports they were mulling joining Likud.
Hendel said that neither he nor Hauser have been asked to jump ship to the Likud party to allow the formation of a majority government.
“They haven’t approached us. They won’t approach us. And they know why,” Hendel tweeted.
MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who represents the Gesher faction in the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, has also been tapped as a possibility to join the right in return for a cabinet portfolio. Levy-Abekasis sparked speculation about her future when she tweeted in the wake of the exit poll results late Monday that she “hopes to wake up tomorrow to a new era of action.” She removed the post a short time later, after journalists asked if it signaled an openness to splitting off and joining a right-wing coalition in order to give it a majority.
“Nothing has changed, we’re continuing on our path,” a statement from her spokesperson said.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report