Lapid Urges Blue and White to Reunite Under Him

YERUSHALAYIM -
MKs Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid on Thursday called on Blue and White and other parties to join an alliance under his leadership, an offer that was immediately rebuffed by his former partners.

The call came a day after Blue and White joined the opposition in supporting Lapid’s motion to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections in a preliminary vote.

Lapid ran as part of a Benny Gantz-led Blue and White during the three election campaigns over the past two years, but broke with Gantz over the latter’s decision to join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.

In an interview with Army Radio on Thursday, Lapid said: “On my worst day, [Yesh Atid] will be twice as large as [Blue and White]. I call on those who have the experience to run under us.”

Recent polls have shown Yesh Atid mounting a formidable challenge to Netanyahu, garnering around 20 seats. Blue and White, meanwhile, is predicted to lose considerable support and wind up as one of the smaller Knesset parties, with ten seats or fewer.

The combined Blue and White-Yesh Atid alliance picked up 33 seats in the previous election, compared to the Likud’s 36.

Nonetheless, Blue and White told Army Radio it would not run under Lapid’s leadership.

“Lapid was not and won’t be an option for prime minister. He has no chance of forming a government. He has always evaded responsibility, including when he served as a failed finance minister,” a statement from the party said.

“Gantz is the only one who will lead the centrist camp in the next election,” it said.

Lapid has vociferously attacked Gantz since he split off to join the government, and the two are reportedly no longer on speaking terms. Nonetheless, Lapid has struck a more conciliatory tone toward Gantz since he announced his support for dissolving the Knesset.

Meanwhile, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz hinted that his party, which joined Netanyahu’s coalition along with Gantz, could run alone in the next election, despite polls showing it failing to pass the Knesset electoral threshold.

“I’m not sure we won’t run alone,” he told Army Radio, despite previous statements that he would run with Blue and White.

Peretz also announced he would run for president.

Labor MK Merav Michaeli, who was forcefully opposed to joining the Netanyahu-led government in breach of the party’s campaign promises, told Peretz and his fellow Labor minister Itzik Shmuli they should defect from Labor to Blue and White, to give her the space to re-energize the Labor Party.

“[Itzik] Shmuli and [Amir] Peretz are welcome to join Blue and White. From the beginning of this Knesset and government, they went to [Blue and White’s] faction meetings,” she told Army Radio on Wednesday night. “I am fighting to save the Labor Party — I believe the court will rule in our favor on the primaries.”

Michaeli is pushing for party primaries, a move opposed by Peretz and Shmuli, and said she believed a court would back her view.

If Israel does go back to the polls, it will be its fourth round in two years. The Knesset must still approve the bill to dissolve itself in three more votes for elections to be scheduled, likely in the spring or early summer.