Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan announced Tuesday that the two parties have signed a surplus vote agreement ahead of Israel's September 17 election.
Kahol Lavan leaders hope that the deal will garner them another Knesset seat at the expense of right-wing voters voters, because according to the law, the biggest party among the two that sign such a deal has the best chance to gain the surplus votes. Yisrael Beiteinu, meanwhile, called the agreement a "mere technical matter" and stated that they "will not risk losing a Knesset seat."
In practice, Lieberman's willingness to sign a deal that would strengthen Gantz – the declared rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – is another step forward in preparing the groundwork for a cooperation with Kahol Lavan the day after election results are announced.
Likud slammed the two parties for the deal they struck. "The cat is out of the bag," a statement by the party said. "Lieberman signed a surplus vote agreement with Lapid and Gantz, after declaring openly that he would support them should they gain the premiership."
Likud was referring to Lieberman's recent statement that he would recommend to President Reuven Rivlin to choose the chief of the biggest party willing to establish a unity government as the candidate to compose the coalition, even if it it's not Netanyahu.
Responding to Likud's statement, the former defense minister retorted: "Netanyahu made a concession deal with Hamas. I signed a surplus vote agreement with Kahol Lavan, I think that's better."
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Following news that Gantz and Lieberman signed the deal, the Labor Party and Democratic Union said that they, too, will form such a deal. The Democratic Union deliberated this week whether to sign such a deal with Kahol Lavan or with Labor, that has merged with Orli Levi-Abekasis' Gesher Party.
The party explained that it had ruled out establishing such an agreement with the Joint List after its chairman Ayman Odeh clarified that he would not agree to sign such a deal as long as Ehud Barak is on the Democratic Union's slate.
Odeh has been vocally critical of Barak since the latter announced his political comeback, taking aim at him for what he deemed an improper apology over his conduct during the October 2000 riots. The protests by Israeli Arab citizens, which took place while Barak was prime minister, resulted with the death of 13 demonstrators.
The rest of the parties have yet to announce whether they have signed surplus vote agreements.
By law, two parties can agree to combine their surplus votes. These are votes that a party receives but that are not enough to qualify for a full Knesset seat.
If two parties combine their surplus votes, that total might be enough to qualify for a Knesset seat. In such a case, that seat goes to the party that contributed the larger number of surplus votes.
The deadline for signing a surplus vote deal is September 6.