Overtures from Ehud Barak also reportedly rebuffed

Opposition chief Livni said trying in vain to join up with Gantz’s new party

Unconfirmed report claims former IDF chief is reluctant to join forces with the ex-minister because of her identification with the political left

File: IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, left, seen with Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, right, at a ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak as Israel marked the Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 27, 2014. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
File: IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, left, seen with Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, right, at a ceremony at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak as Israel marked the Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 27, 2014. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni is seeking to join forces with the new political party founded on Thursday by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, Channel 10 reported.

Livni leads a political party of her own, Hatnua, which is currently in the Knesset as part of the Zionist Union faction it shares with the Labor party.

According to the Thursday report, Gantz and his reported potential new political partner, former defense minister and fellow ex-IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon, are reluctant to join forces with Livni because of her shift in recent years to the political left.

Livni, once a Likud stalwart, joined the centrist Kadima party when it was established by Ariel Sharon in 2005, then rose to lead the party ahead of the 2009 elections. Ousted as leader in 2012, she broke away and formed her Hatnua party, which espoused more dovish positions from the start.

Hatnua joined forces with Labor ahead of the 2015 election to run jointly as the Zionist Union.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, right, and then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, left, at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, August 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gantz is widely believed to hold somewhat left-leaning views, and has said in the past that resolving the conflict with the Palestinians should be a priority for the Israeli government.

But this week, amid speculation that he would formally register his new party in the coming days — he finally registered it on Thursday, under the name Israel Resilience Party — reports surfaced in the Hebrew-language media that Gantz had struck a deal with Ya’alon. According to the reports, the two army chiefs, each helming their own party, had agreed to combine their Knesset lists.

The reported alliance, which has not yet been confirmed by either man, may mark a shift rightward for Gantz. Ya’alon, a former supporter of the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians, joined Likud ahead of the 2009 elections and served as a lawmaker and minister from its ranks until 2016, when he left in disgust after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replaced him as defense minister with Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman.

According to Channel 10, Gantz and Ya’alon don’t want to be painted as left-wing in the early stages of the campaign. They are believed to be looking to establish their new alliance as an attractive alternative for right-wing voters to a Netanyahu-led Likud.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz speaks to reporters outside the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa on September 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to reports, former prime minister — and, like Gantz and Ya’alon, also a former army chief — Ehud Barak has been tentatively feeling out Gantz in the hopes of joining him as well.

But Gantz is said to have given Barak the same cold shoulder, and for the same reason. A former head of the Labor party, Barak is said to be seen by Gantz as too identified with the left.

On Tuesday night, Livni called for the country’s centrist and leftist parties to “put our egos aside” and unite in a bid to unseat Netanyahu. She would be the first to give up pride of place on a new unity slate, she told a crowd at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

On Wednesday, an official in the Zionist Union party said a group of lawmakers is planning to leave its ranks. The party official named the Zionist Union MKs meeting in the Knesset to contemplate a possible breakaway as Eitan Cabel, Mickey Rosenthal, Nachman Shai, Yossi Yona, and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin.

The Knesset voted to dissolve itself on Wednesday and set April 9 as the date of the next Israeli elections.

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