Gantz and Lapid in Talks to Run Together in Upcoming Israeli Election

Head of country's largest labor federation leaving post to join former army chief's Hosen L'Yisrael party

Benny Gantz is embraced by a supporter during an electoral campaign tour, Rishon Letzion, February 1, 2019.
THOMAS COEX / AFP

Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are discussing the possibility of their centrist parties running jointly in the April 9 election, creating a greater challenge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Knesset member in Lapid's Yesh Atid party said Saturday.

MK Ofer Shelah said that Yesh Atid had yet to answer what he called "core questions" from Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael party and that no electoral alliance could happen without answers.  

"After all, we want to create a governing party," Shelah said. "Such a party must have positions, not on everything but on certain core issues."

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Shelah mentioned the question of whether to join a government with a prime minister who might be indicted, legislation on drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, and the core-curriculum program opposed by many ultra-Orthodox politicians.

Gantz has weighed in on one of these questions, ruling out joining a government if Netanyahu has been indicted in the corruption cases against him, but not excluding joining while a pre-indictment hearing process was underway.

Also Saturday, Hosen L'Yisrael announced that the head of Israel's largest labor federation was joining its ranks.

Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn is set to leave his post to join Hosen L'Yisrael following Gantz's efforts to recruit him as a "social justice candidate." This would break the tradition of Histadrut leaders' links with the Labor Party.

Gantz described Nissenkorn as "an important social leader," noting that he has striven to raise the minimum wage and average wage.

"His joining is a central element in turning the party into one that represents the middle class, which is vying with a vicious cost of living, massive lines in the health system, and a resounding failure in the ability to put a roof over heads."

Nissenkorn said in a statement: "I leave the Histadrut with a heavy heart, but Israel is at a crucial junction. The 2019 election is critical, and I can't stand idly by. Benny Gantz must be Israel's prime minister, and he will be a great prime minister."