a Merger of Israeli Centrists May Give Benjamin Netanyahu the Run of His Life
By Marcy Oster
Gantz took Israel’s political world by storm just weeks ago when he announced
the formation of his own Israel Resilience Party. The former general’s party
was polling in the high teens, just as Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid did when his
party stormed onto the scene ahead of the 2013 elections.
neither center-left leader appeared to pose a serious threat to Benjamin
Netanyahu, whose right-wing coalition appeared unbeatable.
in the early hours of Thursday morning Gantz and Lapid dropped a bombshell, and
agreed that they would be stronger together than they would be individually.
Putting aside rivalries and differences, they announced a new Israeli party
along with Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, like Gantz a former chief of staff of the
Israel Defense Forces.
Telem Party combined with Gantz’s late last month. And to sweeten the pot,
another former head of the IDF, Gabi Ashkenazi, announced that he, too, would
join the new joint list.
is the merged party called?
new party said it would call itself Blue and White, a nod to Israel’s national
colors and to the Gantz campaign theme that “Israel comes before everything
will the merger work?
to the announcement, should the party win, the position of prime minister would
be rotated. Gantz would serve for the first 2 1/2 years, and then Lapid would
take over. Other reports said that while Gantz was prime minister, Lapid would
serve as foreign minister and Yaalon as defense minister.
else is in the party?
list is top-heavy with former generals and light on women. Gantz, Lapid, Yaalon
and Ashkenazi are the top four, followed by Labor Federation leader Avi
Nissenkorn. The first women, Miki Haimovich and Orna Barbivai, appear in the
seventh and 10th spots, respectively. There are eight women in the top 30 spots.
(Israelis vote for a party, not an individual, and parties are awarded seats in
the Knesset according to their percentage of the vote tally. It’s up to the
party who gets the spots available.)
do they stand for?
new ruling party will bring forth a cadre of security and social leaders to
ensure Israel’s security and to reconnect its people and heal the divide
within Israeli society,” the leaders said in a joint statement. That’s about
as close as they got to outlining a platform.
and Gantz prefer to describe themselves as “neither right nor left.” Gantz
has spoken about eventual “disengagement” in the West Bank but insists that
education, national infrastructure and security are his top priorities. Yaalon
believes that the idea of perpetual Israeli control over the Palestinians is an
illusion, but that the Palestinian leadership is not ready to divide the land
and there is enough room in the West Bank to settle 1 million or 2 million more
settlers. Lapid rose to prominence on a platform of closing Israel’s wide
economic gaps and standing up to the Orthodox religious establishment.
party was scheduled to deliver a more detailed joint statement to the
Israeli media on Thursday evening.
they beat Netanyahu?
short answer is maybe. But there has not even been a “maybe” in many years.
Polls taken the day before the merger was announced showed a combined
Gantz-Lapid slate winning one seat more than Netanyahu’s Likud, and fewer if
they run separately. Yesh Atid had been steadily losing seats since Gantz
announced his new party, which likely took most of its votes. Once the votes
have been counted, the race will be on to form a coalition. Netanyahu will look
to his right-wing partners and Gantz-Lapid will turn to the left. It looks like
it’s gonna be close.