Labor Party Will Back Lapid to Form Government After Israel Election, Candidate Says

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid in the Knesset, in 2013.
Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid in the Knesset, in 2013.Credit: Michal Fattal
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Labor Knesset candidate Nachman Shai said Tuesday that the party will recommend that President Reuven Rivlin task Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid with forming the next government after the March 23 election. 

Lapid himself has avoided declaring that he seeks the position of prime minister.

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"We will recommend Yair Lapid to the president, we'll definitely recommend him," Shai said in an interview with Army Radio. "We think that he can lead the coalition in Israel," adding that the party sees Lapid as the head of the center-left bloc.

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Shai's statement comes the day after Nitzan Horowitz, chairman of the struggling Meretz party, that they would also recommend that Rivlin task Lapid with building a coalition. Meretz was the first party in the center-left bloc to officially announced its support for Lapid.

"We will recommend Yair Lapid as prime minister," Horowitz told the Ynet news website. 

"I see Lapid as the head of the largest party in the [center-left] bloc and he has the greatest chance to form a government. We will be part of the government alongside him. Meretz intends to request the education portfolio. I want to be the next education minister," he said.

Horowitz clarified that his party backs his statement and estimated that Meretz would become a crucial factor in forming the next government if Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not manage to secure a 61-seat majority.

Many Israelis who have voted for Meretz and Labor in the past intend to cast their ballot for Yesh Atid this time around, aiming to strengthen the party that appears to be the largest in the center-left bloc. Shai and Horowitz's show of support for Lapid may be intended to bring these voters back to Meretz.

A recent election poll has projected that Netanyahu's Likud would receive 28 out of 120 Knesset seats, with the anti-Netanyahu bloc receiving 58 seats, and the pro-Netanyahu bloc 47.

The poll also showed that Labor and Meretz would receive six and four seats respectively. Kahol Lavan and the United Arab List would both win four seats.

Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that Lapid is the only candidate competing with him for the premiership in an attempt to depict the coming election as a battle between right and left while weakening rival right-wing parties like Yamina and New Hope, whose voters are deterred by a Lapid-led government.

This might be the reason why Lapid has held off saying he is vying to be Israel's next prime minister as well as concerns that one of the center-left parties would fail to pass the electoral threshold.

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