Yair Lapid: I Will Not Block a Netanyahu-led Coalition

Head of now-second-largest party in the Knesset ends speculation that he may try to form a center-left coalition as an alternative to Netanyahu.

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Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party came in second in the Knesset election, said on Wednesday that he would not try to form a center-left coalition as an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Shelly Yacimovich, whose Labor Party came in third, tried to persuade Lapid to head a center-left coalition.

“I heard talk about establishing a [center-left] bloc I want to take this option off the table,” Lapid said, adding that he would not set up a bloc with Hanin Zuabi, a high-profile MK in the Arab Balad party. A center-left government would need the cooperation of Arab parties.

In the next Knesset, Yesh Atid only trails the joint faction of Likud and Yisraeli Beiteinu, which secured 31 seats. Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the army one of Lapid’s main planks will be his next government’s top goal.

Analysts said Netanyahu and Lapid would try to set up a 70-MK coalition consisting of Likud-Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi, Hatnuah and Kadima. It’s not clear whether Lapid would veto the participation of ultra-Orthodox parties.

Likud sources said Shas might join the government but would be allowed to vote against policy on issues pertaining to military service. Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman said Lapid was the natural choice for finance minister; someone who focused on domestic issues.

Lieberman said all parties that accepted the new coalition’s principles were “welcome to join,” adding that “the ultra-Orthodox parties understand that they will have to be flexible .... We’re not ruling anyone out.”

According to Lieberman, “There is no doubt that with 19 Knesset seats, Lapid will be a senior member of the government .... The people have demanded a dramatic change, not just a cosmetic one,” he told a press conference.

Earlier on Wednesday Netanyahu said “the Israeli people want me to continue leading the country, and they want me to build a coalition that will create three major changes domestically: more equal distribution of the national burden, affordable housing and a change in the system of government. I am coming out of a long meeting with my partner, Avigdor Lieberman, and we agreed that in addition to security and diplomacy, we will focus the coalition talks on these three principles.”

Yacimovich, meanwhile, was disappointed with Labor’s showing. “The final result 15 seats is maybe more than what anyone dreamed of a year and a half ago, but it is disappointing .... I congratulate Yair Lapid but I call on him not to join a government led by Netanyahu, which intends to dismantle the middle class. If [his party] takes part in an alternative coalition, I will help him. If not, I will lead, along with my excellent faction, a combative opposition, one never seen before.”

After 99 percent of the votes had been counted excluding soldiers and prisoners the right bloc was slightly ahead. Voter turnout was 66.6 percent.

The number of votes needed for a party to pass the 2-percent threshold and enter the Knesset is 73,000. This number was 67,500 in 2009.

In this election, for the first time, the public was able to follow the counting of ballots in real time on the government’s Memshal Zamin website, or using a special cell phone app.

Yair Lapid speaking in Beit Shemesh, Oct. 28, 2012. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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