Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid and Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni are expected to meet later Monday to discuss prospects of a possible union between their two parties.
Several reports over the weekend indicated that Livni was more inclined to partner with Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party, but Yesh Atid sources told Israel Radio that they consider said reports not final.
Lapid is said to have proposed giving Livni and her colleagues in Hatnua four spots on his party’s list. Yesh Atid is also reportedly considering a partnership with former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon’s as yet unnamed faction, which according to very early polls, is expected to be popular.
On Saturday, however, Livni confirmed that her party was on the brink of sealing a deal to merge with Herzog’s Labor ahead of the March 2015 elections, asserting that such an alliance would offer Israeli voters a viable alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. Herzog declared over the weekend that he would become Israel’s next prime minister by leading a centrist bloc that would defeat Netanyahu.
Since the Knesset passed the first reading of a law to dissolve itself last week, Herzog has been courting Livni as well as other politicians, including Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, in an attempt to forge such a bloc.
After a preliminary vote last week, the Knesset is expected to vote later Monday on a second and third readings of a bill to dissolve itself — and formally put an end to the current coalition — amid reports Sunday that Netanyahu might be considering a deal to head off elections.
According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report, Netanyahu held a late-night meeting Saturday with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in an effort to convince him to form an alternative coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties and avert early elections.
The report cited unnamed political sources to the effect that the prime minister also tried to delay the second and third readings of the bill to dissolve the Knesset. The report was denied by Netanyahu, who dismissed it as left-wing “spin” and said that the vote and elections would go ahead as planned.
Netanyahu paid a visit to Liberman at his home in the Nokdim settlement, where the Yisrael Beytenu party leader was observing the Jewish seven-day mourning period for his mother, who died last week. The two spoke for a long time, with political sources maintaining that the PM was trying to convince Liberman to join a new coalition.
The foreign minister has long been opposed to joining up with the ultra-Orthodox parties, and sources close to Liberman said Saturday that his position remains unchanged.
“Liberman is a man of his word, and if Liberman said that it’s either this coalition or elections, then there is no chance that there will be something else,” an anonymous source said.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office late Saturday rejected the details of the report.
“There is no limit to the spin of the left-wing parties,” it said, implying that the report was based on leaks from outside the coalition meant to harm the prime minister. “The vote for the dissolution of the Knesset will be held as planned on Monday, and elections for the Knesset will be held on March 17.”
On Thursday, Yesh Atid accused Netanyahu of attempting to split apart the centrist party in a last-ditch attempt to salvage his ruling coalition and avoid elections.
The allegations were swiftly denied by the prime minister, but sources in Likud conceded that such an attempt had been made, Yedioth Ahronoth’s Ynet website reported.