Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen has left Blue and White to join the opposition Yesh Atid, making her the ninth lawmaker to abandon the party in the past two weeks as the country’s political arena prepares for the March elections.
Yesh Atid announced the move in a statement Tuesday. “Yesh Atid is pleased to announce that the minister for social equality, Meirav Cohen, is joining the party,” the statement said.
“When you’re navigating and lose your way, you need to go back to the last point where you knew you were on the right path,” Cohen said in a joint press conference with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid later Tuesday.
“For me, that point was the unity with Yesh Atid. Thank you to Yair Lapid who opened his door and his heart to me. Together, we’ll bring about the change this country needs.”
Lapid introduced her by saying “she’s smart, she’s a team player and she’s come to work hard.” He said the coming elections would actually be about values — about what kind of country and what kind of government we want to have here. A sane and liberal government or a government defined by interest groups and the far right…
“It’s time for a government that will work for the middle class and for young people, they need an economic safety net and a plan to jump-start the economy. They don’t need a country run by backroom deals and political blackmail. It’s time to unite and connect and reduce the gaps in society. It’s time to put an end to the discourse of hate…The bigger and stronger Yesh Atid will be, the more those values will be represented and will lead the country.”
Blue and White, which has 14 MKs in the outgoing coalition, has seen an exodus of lawmakers since the Knesset dissolved last month over the failure to pass a new budget, with the party flailing in the polls and leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz facing questions over his captaincy.
Cohen was among a number of Blue and White lawmakers who had threatened to quit the party over Gantz’s leadership, according to Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.
She follows Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, former justice minister Avi Nissenkorn, Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay; and MKs Ram Shefa, Asaf Zamir, Miki Haimovich, Einav Kabla and Michal Cotler-Wunsh, none of whom will be on the Blue and White party slate for the March 23 elections.
Gantz demanded that Nissenkorn resign as justice minister after he announced he was leaving to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s newly established The Israelis party.
He also told Zamir and Haimovich that they were being booted off the party slate for the coming elections due to their decision to vote against extending the state budget deadline, ultimately causing the fall of the government.
Gantz has vowed to continue to lead the ailing Blue and White in the elections.
A poll last week predicted that Blue and White will not pass the threshold for entry into the Knesset in the elections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz reached an agreement that was supposed to see Gantz replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November 2021, but a loophole in the agreement saw the coalition collapse due to Netanyahu’s refusal to pass an annual budget, triggering elections.
Israel is consequently now gearing up for its fourth election in two years after the Knesset dissolved in December.