Joint Left-wing Slate Seeks to Woo Voters With Specter of Gantz Joining Netanyahu's Government

Gantz's party fired back, saying Democratic Union's Ehud Barak 'could teach a course in crawling into Netanyahu governments’ ■ Right-wing alliance promises legalization of West Bank settlements, liberal economy

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Ehud Barak, Stav Shaffir and Nitzan Horowitz at news conference.
Democratic Union leaders at a news conference, August 12, 2019. From left: Ehud Barak, Stav Shaffir and Nitzan Horowitz.Credit: Moti Milrod
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's Democratic Union party unveiled a new campaign angle Monday aimed at gaining support at the expense of the other center-left parties, in particular to get back the thousands of voters who abandoned Meretz for Kahol Lavan in the last election.

The heads of the party, Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, Stav Shaffir (who left the Labor Party) and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, held a press conference at which they attacked Benny Gantz of Kahol Lavan and Labor’s Amir Peretz, warning against a last-minute Kahol Lavan “gevalt” campaign of desperation to try to pull voters away from Democratic Union.

At the center of the campaign is a poster of Gantz’s divided head, with the right half adjacent to the right-wing ministers in a future unity government (with the caption, “That’s cowardice”), and the other half adjacent to photos of Democratic Union members (“That’s courage”).

At the briefing, Horowitz condemned Gantz, saying, “A party that says its declared objective is to go with the right, how is it part of this camp? What makes them center-left? And what are center-left voters who voted Kahol Lavan supposed to think when it rushes into [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s arms?”

A senior Democratic Union source said they believe Labor chairman Amir Peretz would also agree to join a unity government with Likud after the election. According to the source, Peretz didn’t join Democratic Union so as not to limit his ability to enter such a government. “If Labor-Gesher succeeds in passing the electoral threshold, it could certainly join Netanyahu,” he said.

Kahol Lavan hastened to condemn the new campaign. “We won’t take political advice from Ehud Barak, who could give a course in crawling into Netanyahu governments,” the party said.

United Right becomes Yamina

In another campaign development, the United Right alliance led by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has announced that it has changed its name to Yamina ("rightward" in Hebrew). "Right is what the public wants but doesn't get every election. We're going to steer the ship in that direction," the party said.

Speaking at a Yamina campaign event Monday Shaked said: "Over the past four years, we've proven that we're the only right-wing [slate] that is unafraid to turn its ideology into a work plan, that doesn't betray its values," adding that this includes "settlement in all parts of Israel, including Judea and Samaria," referring to the West Bank.

"Only together can we work to legalize settlement in Judea and Samaria once and for all," she declared. "Only together can we open up the High Court to other voices; only together can we maintain Jewish tradition … against the cynical alliance between [Avigdor] Lieberman and [Yair] Lapid; only together can we build a free, blooming economy, free of the power of labor unions and the rule of monopolies." 

The joint slate now known as Yamina was set up two weeks ago when Shaked and her party colleague Naftali Bennett of Hayamin Hehadash joined forces with the Union of Right-Wing Parties, after the latter's chairman, Rafi Peretz, agreed to let Shaked take the helm of the unified ticket.

Labor-Gesher's economic plan

The Labor-Gesher party, meanwhile, presented its economic program, which it plans to make the centerpiece of its campaign. The cost of the ambitious initiative would be 30 billion shekels ($8.6 billion) and includes raising the minimum wage to 40 shekels an hour, a ban on contract workers and a reform in the housing market under which the government would build some 200,000 apartments, some of which would be marketed to young couples under a new leasing arrangement the government would adopt.

Peretz and Levi-Abekasis revealed the plan at a press conference Monday morning, but refused to answer questions from journalists. “Our plan is decidedly different from both Bibi’s piggish capitalism and the approach of charity and compassion of those who seek to replace Bibi but not his policies, first and foremost Yair Lapid who says, ‘I’m a compassionate capitalist.’”