Days Before Party Ticket Deadline, Lapid Says Merger With Gantz Still 'On the Table'

Meanwhile, Gantz and Levi-Abekasis discuss potential alliance ■ Arab parties Balad, United Arab List agree to run on joint ticket ■ Be'er Sheva mayor refuses second slot on Labor list ■ Lapid reveals Yesh Atid ticket

Benny Gantz speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2019.
\ ANDREAS GEBERT/ REUTERS

Negotiations were ongoing Monday between Hosen L'Yisrael chairman Benny Gantz and Gesher head Orli Levi-Abekasis about a potential alliance in the April 9 election, while Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid said merging with Gantz's party was still "on the table."

In talks held just days ahead of Thursday's deadline for submitting party slates, Gantz said he would be willing to give Levi-Abekasis a senior socio-economic portfolio if he becomes part of the next government, whether as prime minister or as a coalition partner. 

Orli Levi-Abekasis on February 4, 2019.
\ Ilan Assayag
Haaretz Weekly Episode 16Haaretz

Levi-Abekasis, a lawmaker who emphasizes a social-welfare agenda, previously requested the finance portfolio, but Gantz has not yet agreed to promise this.

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Levi-Abekasis told Israeli television last Thursday that she would prefer joining Gantz over an alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Haaretz's Chemi Shalev wrote last week that such a union would provide Gantz’s party with a much-needed socio-economic veneer, with the caveat that Levy-Abekasis' appeal in the polls has been on a steady decline.

Yesh Atid reveals ticket

Also on Monday, Yesh Atid announced the makeup of its ticket. With the first slot reserved for Lapid, MKs Meir Cohen and Ofer Shelah are in second and third places, respectively. Newcomer Maj. Gen. (ret.) Orna Barbivai, who served for three years as head of the military's personnel directorate, is in fourth place, with former Health Minister Yael German rounding out the top five. The next five candidates on the ticket are all sitting MKs – Karin Elharrar, Yoel Razvozov, Elazar Stern, Mickey Levy, and Pnina Tamano-Shata.

Two new party members – Ram Ben-Barak, the former deputy head of the Mossad espionage agency, and Yoav Segalovich, the former head of Israel Police's investigations unit – are in the 11th and 12th spots. Former MK Boaz Toporovsky is back on the party's ticket, in the 13th place. There are three LGBTQ candidates: Idan Roll in the 14th place, Yorai Lahav Hertzanu in the 15th, and Zehorit Sorek in the 19th.  

An opinion poll released Sunday night by Channel 12 predicted that Yesh Atid will win 12 seats in the election, while one released the same evening by Kan News predicted a result of 10 seats.

Balad and United Arab List to run on joint ticket

Meanwhile, Arab parties Balad and United Arab List have agreed to run on a joint slate in the election, announcing that their candidates will have alternate slots on the ticket. The parties also decided they would continue negotiations with the two remaining parties in the Joint List, a political alliance of Arab-majority parties that disbanded in January when Ahmad Tibi's Ta'al split off.

On Thursday, Haaretz reported that the four Arab parties in the Joint List are preparing to disband their association and run separately as the negotiating teams for Hadash, United Arab List, Balad and Ta'al continued talks.

Separate runs would exacerbate the risk of the parties failing to pass the electoral threshold in the election, which requires a party to receive at least 3.25 percent of the vote to be allocated seats in the Knesset. But the parties have been riven by mutual distrust, and, have been bracing to run separately amid mutual accusations.

A meeting convened by Arab parties on Monday evening about a new alliance proved fruitless amid disagreement over each party's representation. Ta'al is insisting on four seats on the ticket in spots high enough to have a reasonable chance to actually enter the Knesset, while United Arab List is demanding that Hadash give up a seat in exchange for remaining at the top of the ticket. Talks are set to continue on Tuesday.

In January, Tibi submitted a request to split his Ta'al party from the Joint List, a decision that came after months in which he urged open primaries for Joint List candidates, or a distribution of parties' seats within the alliance based on public surveys, partly in the hopes of increasing Ta'al's strength.

A number of Joint List lawmakers have recently announced that they will not run in the upcoming election: Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, both of the Balad party, and Dov Khenin of Hadash.

Labor offers rebuffed

Be'er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich refused the offer of Labor Party chairman Abi Gabbay to give him a guaranteed second slot on the party's slate, the mayor announced on Monday. "In the past three Knesset election campaigns, I received offers from various parties," Danilovich said. "I thanked them politely and declared then and this time too, to all those who asked me, that I see my public service in the Negev as a national mission."

In another refusal, MK Haim Yellin turned down the 10th slot on the Labor Knesset slate days after leaving the Yesh Atid party. Yellin said he refused because he felt uncomfortable moving from one party to another within a short time.

Labor said that it is not paying attention to the issue of guaranteed slots on the party slate. The 10th slot on the slate is meant for a choice of Gabbay's, along with second and 16th place on the list. Gabbay is considering offering one of the slots to MK Yael Cohen Paran, a member of Hatnua.