Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought unsuccessfully to convince leaders of the far-right Yachad Party to drop out of the elections, in order to avoid the loss of right-wing votes, Hebrew language media reported Sunday.
Netanyahu met Friday with Rabbi Meir Mazuz, the spiritual patron of Yachad party chairman Eli Yishai, and asked him to pull the party out of the running for the April 9 national elections, Walla News reported. Recent polls show that Yachad will fail to garner enough votes to reach the 3.25% electoral threshold required for a party to enter the Knesset.
However, the meeting ended with no agreement and the party, which Eli Yishai has led since being ousted as the leader of Shas in 2015, will continue to campaign for the upcoming elections.
Netanyahu’s Likud party is currently trailing in the polls, coming in second after Blue and White, an alliance composed of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and political newcomer Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party.
However Netanyahu is still believed to be more likely to be able to form a coalition following the election.
Last month Netanyahu made a much-criticized deal with Jewish Home whereby he would provide the party with two ministerial positions and run one if its candidates on Likud’s own slate in exchange for the party merging with other small right-wing factions.
Jewish Home, National Union and the extremist Otzma Yehudit eventually merged into the Union of Right Wing Parties.
Recent polls have shown the right-wing Kulanu party hovering just over the threshold, while Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu has consistently polled below it. Meanwhile the Zehut party led by Moshe Feiglin had been polling below the threshold but in recent days has managed to pass it, winning four projected seats in two polls.
A failure on the part of any of these slates to clear the electoral threshold would mean thousands of “wasted” votes on the right. Netanyahu has warned the split could endanger his chances of putting together a right-wing coalition of at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
Forty-seven political parties are currently registered with the Central Elections Committee and eligible to run. Parties are allowed to withdraw before the April 9 balloting, but the final list of parties running for election will be posted by the committee nine days before the national vote.