Israeli Centrist Parties Unite To Challenge To Prime Minister Netanyahu
Israelis awoke Thursday to a new political landscape, as former army chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party formed an alliance with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid—a move geared towards unseating Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the April 9 elections. Following weeks of on-and-off talks, the two held a marathon session overnight and agreed to rotate as premier—with Gantz serving in the capacity for the first 2.5 years of a four-year term—in the event their bloc wins the upcoming vote. Israel Resilience and Yesh Atid are currently polling in second and third place—predicted to win about 20 and 10 seats, respectively, in the next parliament—well behind Netanyahu’s ruling Likud which is projected to garner at least 30 mandates. Hence, the decision by Gantz and Lapid to join forces—a union that a survey conducted this week found could win 34 seats—although it remains an uphill battle for the center-left to overcome the combined political strength of right-wing parties. In this respect, Netanyahu caused an uproar Wednesday by pushing the national-religious Bayit Yehudi to unite with the far-right extremist Otzma Yehudit, the offspring of the banned Kach party founded by the late Meir Kahane who advocated for the expulsion of Arabs from the Jewish state. Netanyahu canceled a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in order to facilitate the merger, which could allow the new list to pass the electoral threshold and thus provide the Likud with additional support to form the next government.