Gantz, Lapid Pursue Last-minute Negotiations on Joint Ticket in Israeli Election

Levi-Abekasis blasts Gantz, will go it alone ■ Green Leaf won't run ticket for first time in 20 years

Benny Gantz delivers a speech in Tel Aviv on February 19, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

With a Thursday deadline looming for the submission of party slates ahead of the April 9 Knesset election, Hosen L’Yisrael chairman Benny Gantz met on Wednesday with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid in an attempt to reach an agreement to run on a joint ticket. The core of the differences between them has been Yesh Atid’s demand that there be a rotation for the prime minister’s post, between Gantz and Lapid, something to which Gantz objects.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that was scheduled for Thursday, a move Likud sources attributed to the negotiations between Lapid and Gantz. A Kremlin spokesman was quoted by Russia's Sputnik news agency as saying that Netanyahu had asked for the meeting to be postponed for “domestic political reasons.” 

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Netanyahu and Putin had been expected to discuss the situation in Syria and strengthening security coordination between the countries’ militaries. A diplomatic source said they will speak by phone Thursday and set a new date for their meeting.

Meanwhile, Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon told a television interviewer that he wouldn’t rule out sitting in a government headed by Gantz. “When I know what Gantz’s agenda is, I will decide,” the outgoing finance minister said. “If Gantz presents a left-wing government or a government that endangers the State of Israel and divides Jerusalem, I won’t be there. If Gantz is not a left-winger but rather a member of the national camp and suited to my positions, I will sit with him in a government.”

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On Tuesday, Gantz and Lapid spoke by phone and called publicly for the talks between the parties to be intensified. Gantz addressed the topic of a possible joint ticket Tuesday at an event at which he announced his party's own slate. 

“Immediately after this conference is over, I will call my friend Yair Lapid and ask him to meet me tonight. I will ask him again to put every other consideration aside, and together to put Israel before everything. You don’t weaken the opportunity for historic change over arguments about work assignments.”

Lapid later responded to Gantz by saying: “As I said yesterday on stage [at a party rally], we will turn over every stone, we will do everything so as not to miss a historic opportunity to change the government.”

Levi-Abekasis blasts Gantz, will go it alone

Also Wednesday, Gesher party head Orly Levy-Abekasis announced that her party would run independently for Knesset and not join up with Benny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael, as had been widely anticipated.

She maintained that Gantz did not uphold agreements that had been reached with him. “It was really disappointing to learn that the one who had heralded new and clean politics failed his first test – the credibility test,” she said. 

“The idea of linking Gesher to Hosen L’Yisrael was raised by Mr. Gantz during our first meeting,” said Levi-Abekasis. She added the two had talked about major issues, “including the social welfare issue, which, as is known, is the ideological basis of the Gesher party. The Hosen L’Yisrael chairman expressed his agreement to make that issue one of the foundations on which our partnership would be built.”

Levi-Abekasis added that she and Gantz had set up a joint staff that held discussions on all the issues and came to agreements. “To our shock, since those agreements were put into signed documents, there began some strange agitation in Hosen L’Yisrael, accompanied by disinformation and tendentious media briefings, a type of hide-and-seek as though we hadn’t been talking, as if there were no agreements or understandings and no commitments, while the chairman, to my surprise, said nothing.

“It’s amazing how quickly new politicians have adopted old and rejected tricks that the public got sick of long ago,” she added. “It’s a shame that the man whom we hoped would run Israel was revealed to be a man who is controlled by others. A lack of experience led to this man actually coming to me today and asking me to give him time until he finishes his link-up with [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid. I have no other way to describe this behavior other than strange and weird.”

Green Leaf won't run ticket for first time in 20 years

After 20 years of Knesset campaigns that fell short of obtaining any legislative representation, the Green Leaf party, best known for advocating the legalization of marijuana, will not be running in the upcoming election, it announced on Wednesday. 

“If we don’t run, then the 50,000 voters who are the minimal support the party has will go out to the ‘political voting market’ and the other parties will have to contend for their votes and support advancing the cause,” the party said.

Green Leaf first ran for Knesset in 1999 and got 34,000 votes. In 2003, 38,000 people voted for it, and in 2006 it got 40,000 votes. In 2009, the party split into two slates, one that ran under the name Green Leaf, which got 13,000 votes, and a second called Holocaust Survivors with Green Leaf Alumni, which got 2,300 votes. Some 43,000 people voted for the party in 2013, and in 2015 it got 47,000 votes. 

“The move will create a political interest among the large parties to court our supporters and voters, which will help our objectives more than running for Knesset,” the party said. “Einstein said, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ According to the latest polls, Green Leaf is still capable of easily getting one percent [voter] support today, and maybe even two percent if we were to decide to run. Nevertheless, we’ve decided to take this brave and correct step not to run in the 2019 election and to try something unexpected.”

Green Leaf chairman Oren Lebovitch added, “Green Leaf’s activists and voters have turned the cannibas plant from a humorous anecdote at best, or the madness of potheads at worst, into a plant that’s accessible to thousands of patients. Green Leaf instilled in both the public and parliament the policy of treatment and public diplomacy before criminal punishment and brought about social and medical justice. This success of the lengthy activism by the party and its members indeed inspired jealousy among other politicians and parties who adopted the agenda, both on the right and on the left.