Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz said Monday that his party would recommend President Reuven Rivlin to task Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid with forming the next government after the March 23 election.
Meretz is the first party in the center-left bloc that has officially announced its support for Lapid, while the Yesh Atid leader himself has avoided declaring his candidacy for the premiership.
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Labor chairman Merav Michaeli and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz have refused in recent weeks to pledge their support for Lapid.
"We will recommend Yair Lpaid 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.
"We want a government led by the center-left bloc. We understand it’s not enough and we are not ruling out joining forces with parties that are part of the [right-wing] bloc. The alternative is a Bibi-led government with the ultra-Orthodox and the Kahanists."
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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.
It seems that Horowitz's show of support for Lapid is meant 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 the Israeli 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 put 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.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Lapid said that Yesh Atid is "more than ready to take the reins next week," when asked if he is running for prime minister.
"But this election is not about this. Netanyahu is trying to drag me into a battle over who's going to be prime minister."
Lapid added that he thinks "it's time for an Intergenerational change in Israel. I'm ready, the party is ready, we have the right plans, the right abilities. Almost 10 years have passed since I entered politics. I served in many roles that have prepared me. So yes, I'll be happy to serve the country if I get the opportunity to do so."