Yesh Atid Lawmakers Not Ruling Out Joint List Headed by Gantz

Yair Lapid said in the past that he'd only consider running together with Gantz if he remains number one. But the party has changed its tune following Gantz's spike in the polls

Yair Lapid speaks at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, January 29, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Yesh Atid lawmakers said Thursday they are not ruling out the possibility of joining a joint center ticket headed by Benny Gantz in the upcoming election, following the dramatic spike of Gantz and his party, Hosen L’Yisrael, in the polls after launching their campaign earlier this week.

"Somewhere behind closed doors, there are discussions taking place," MK Meir Cohen told Haaretz when asked if Gantz will lead the united ticket. “I'm fully motivated to bring about a joint ticket headed by [Yair] Lapid, yet we're not ruling out Gantz as a worthy partner."

Yesh Atid's leader, Lapid, has stated several times that he would only consider running in the elections on a joint ticket with Gantz’s party if he retains the number one spot. But the party has changed its tone somewhat following Gantz’s maiden campaign speech and spike in the polls.

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“Polls following the initial launch are always sky high, so none of us are throwing in the towel," Cohen said. “I believe in us and I believe, with all my heart, that Yair Lapid should be prime minister. I got into politics to put Yair in the prime minister's chair. Most of the initiatives in Gantz’s speech are ours. We’re the only ones who have been down in the mud and know what needs to be done,” he said.

“I'm among those who believe that Yair and Gantz need to sit down face-to-face and talk, each bringing his own truth to the table. If anything ripens, it will only be at the end of February,” Cohen said.

“What we need right now is discussion, and that's what Lapid is doing," said MK Yael German in an interview to Keshet. “When the picture clears up we’ll see what’s happening. We must consider what’s best for the state - how we take down [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu. We have the mileage,” she said.

Asked if Gantz could lead the joint list she said: “I’m not ruling anything out, I’m leaving it in Lapid’s hands, he’s negotiating and I trust him.”

Polls conducted after Gantz had launched his campaign indicated that his popularity had spiked alongside Yesh Atid’s decline. Hosen L’Yisrael scored 21 to 24 Knesset seats, while Lapid’s party received about 10, according to the most recent polls. A News Company poll predicted that uniting both parties under Gantz’s leadership would yield 35 Knesset seats – five more than Likud – while if Lapid heads the party it would win only 30 seats, fewer than Likud’s 31.

Gantz also came within spitting distance of Netanyahu on the issue of suitability for prime minister and overtook Lapid by a large majority on the question of who should head a united center list.

After Gantz’s speech this week, officials in Yesh Atid had said they weren’t rejecting the option of uniting, but they're also not ready to relinquish the top spot on the slate. “It’s not a matter of ego,” one party member said, “but born from a clear understanding that there’s only one who can beat Netanyahu.”

“Ultimately, the only question is who can defeat Netanyahu, not who's looking best at the half-time show, and the only one who can face him is Lapid,” a Yesh Atid source said. “Yesh Atid can eat Gantz’s party for breakfast.”