Editorial

Time to Join Forces

Opposition parties that squabble and eat into each other’s electoral support serve Netanyahu and the right, which is united around one leader

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni at a press conference, Jerusalem, December 24, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

The call by opposition chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni for the center-left to join forces in the coming election is the best recipe for replacing the government in April. “Each of us must put his ego aside for the common goal, which is upheaval. This will be the test. I believe there is a chance for an upset. The only way to win these elections is to join forces,” she said Tuesday, at an Israel Democracy Institute conference.

Livni recalled the successful alliance between the Labor Party and Hatnuah — the party that she founded — which ahead of the last general election, in 2015, created the Zionist Union. That partnership paid off. Zionist Union won 24 Knesset seats, compared to 15 (Labor) and six (Hatnuah) in the 2013 election.

Joining forces could create a political whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The opposition parties should merge into a single bloc, behind the candidate the polls show has the greatest chance of winning the election.

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It’s easy to say “We must all put our egos aside” and to float slogans such as “We must say: First the state, then the party and after that, me.” It’s difficult to imagine the heads of opposition parties overcoming their egos and giving up on the chance to head a large bloc and vie for the position of prime minister.

Already on Wednesday, members of Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay’s inner circle challenging Livni to put aside her ego. Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party is a natural candidate for the “block-Netanyahu bloc,” refused in the past to join a group that tried to promote former Prime Minister Ehud Barak as its leader.

But all those who see themselves as potential prime ministers must realize that it would be better to be No. 2 or No. 3 in the winning camp than No. 1 in a midsized opposition party.

It’s no coincidence that in September Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested to the coalition heads that the electoral threshold be lowered by half a percentage point. Netanyahu doesn’t reserve his “divide and conquer” approach for the various components of Israeli society, he applies it also to his political rivals.

A large number of parties is good for Netanyahu. Opposition parties that squabble and eat into each other’s electoral support serve Netanyahu and the right, which is united around one leader.

At a meeting Wednesday with local council heads of West Bank settlements, Netanyahu said, “We must win these elections. It’s a battle for our home.” This is all the more true for the center-left camp.