Gantz Not Really Interested in Merger With Lapid, Yesh Atid Officials Say

As Hosen L'Yisrael suffers blow in latest poll, sources in Lapid's party say the two center-left leaders have yet to reach understandings on core issues

File photo: Benny Gantz during an electoral campaign tour in the city of Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv, February 1, 2019.
Thomas Coex/AFP

Yesh Atid officials believe that the chance of joining forces with Benny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael ahead of the April 9 election are diminishing, a party official said on Sunday.

He said the impression is that Gantz’s party doesn’t really want to unify, and thus “The chances are there, but decline from day to day.” Meanwhile, on Sunday news broadcaster Kan reported the results of polls indicating that support for Hosen L’Yisrael is waning. The party was down to 18-20 Knesset seats, while Labor climbed to 10 seats.

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According to sources in Yair Lapid’s party, there is no dispute about a rotation between the two leaders should they run together. However, they said, the sides have yet to reach understandings on other issues. “Does anyone know what [Gantz’s] position is regarding sitting in government after the decision of the attorney general to indict the prime minister? Or on amending the nation-state law? Or on amending the supermarkets law?” asked one Yesh Atid official. “Even before we get to the question of rotation, yes or no, they need to answer central questions.”

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The same official added, “We are not getting clear answers, and the impression is that they don’t want to team up.” The official estimated that the chances of running on a joint ticket had “declined to 35 percent.”

Another party official said he had recommended to Lapid not to join forces. “Gantz’s party will not exist in another year or two, while it’s enough to go into the streets today to see field workers for Yesh Atid, which has become a fact and not a fly-by-night party,” he said.

Yesh Atid officials point to Gantz’s strategic adviser, Ronen Tzur, as the one preventing the alliance. Tzur declined to respond. Despite the developments, party officials believe that talks of joining up will continue until the last minute. One party member said he believed Gantz prefers joining up with Gesher, headed by Orli Levi-Abekasis, which has not passed the threshold needed to get into the Knesset in recent polls, over Yesh Atid. “They are expected to submit their list on Wednesday, and if some deal is closed, it will happen right before the deadline,” a party official said.

Yesh Atid is preparing for the declaration of its Knesset list, which is expected to be announced Monday at a party event in Shfayim. Observers expect the top five to include MK Yael German, Gen. (Res.) Orna Barbivai and MK Ofer Shelah. Boaz Toporovsky, who served as a Yesh Atid representative in the Knesset between 2013 and 2015, as well as two religious Zionists, Tehila Friedman and Moshe Tur-Paz, are expected to make it into the top 10 of the list.