Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and Tzipi Livni are holding talks to form a left-wing “obstructing bloc” to stop Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from being reelected.
Livni called for Yacimovich and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to form a “united front” toward victory over the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu joint list, speaking to Channel 2 News on Friday, two days after Yacimovich put herself at the fore of the Center-Left bloc by saying she would rather be opposition leader than join a Netanyahu coalition.
“As the public is filled with despair, we, as leaders, cannot give up,” she said. “The fact that Likud Beytenu is dropping in the polls creates an opportunity for a joint front in the Center bloc. I call for my friends Yair Lapid and Shelly Yacimovich to act together as a group and create hope and an effective political power to replace Netanyahu.”
While Livni was still in the Channel 2 studio, Yacimovich sent her a text message: “Hi Tzipi, I would be happy to meet with you. I invite you to my house tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.”
On Saturday night, the Labor chairwoman’s staff said Livni was unavailable to meet that day, adding that the two will speak in the next few days and that Livni’s statements increase the chances that Yacimovich will be the next prime minister.
When asked on Saturday night why she still had not met with Yacimovich, Livni told The Jerusalem Post at a private house meeting in conjunction with the Green Movement in Ness Ziona, “She requested a meeting, and I am honoring that. It will be a meeting that is not a media meeting with television cameras outside. We are coordinating between us only.”
Lapid, on the other hand, expressed a willingness to meet with Yacimovich and Livni, but would not commit to staying out of a Netanyahu-led coalition.
The Yesh Atid leader presented Netanyahu’s reelection as a fact, and suggested that the three parties join a coalition led by Likud Beytenu in order to form a centrist government.
“I don’t understand what an ‘obstructing bloc’ means.
Will we need to rely on [Balad MK] Haneen Zoabi [to form a coalition]?” Lapid asked on Channel 2’s Meet the Press.
“Instead of an obstructing bloc, let’s form an initiating bloc,” he continued.
At the same time, Lapid repeated his declaration that “if none of the other centrist parties join the government, [he] won’t either.”
“I won’t be the character reference for a coalition made up of haredim and the extreme Right. I won’t sit in a right-wing government between [Bayit Yehudi candidate and Hebron activist] Orit Struck and [Shas leader] Eli Yishai,” he added.
If Livni commits to staying out of a Netanyahu-led coalition, leading Lapid to also stay out of the next government, the prime minister’s only possible coalition partners would be Bayit Yehudi, United Torah Judaism and Shas, as well as Strong Israel, Am Shalem or Kadima, if they pass the 2-percent election threshold.
Yacimovich pointed out on Saturday evening that Livni also has yet to announce that she will not join a coalition with Likud Beytenu, calling for her to do so to prove that her idea of an “obstructing bloc” has meaning.
“This is not how you replace the government. I don’t want to sit next to the driver and hit the brakes. I want to challenge Netanyahu. I’m not ready to give up on this election three weeks before it takes place,” the Labor leader said on Meet the Press.
In light of recent polls showing Likud Beytenu losing seats, Yacimovich said the three Center-Left parties have “an amazing opportunity.”
Likud Beytenu quickly criticized Livni and Yacimovich, saying it is ridiculous for them to think they can run a country if they can’t even arrange a meeting between the two of them.
“They ought to learn that countries aren’t run in text messages and power plays,” the party quipped.
Likud Beytenu released a new slogan on Saturday: “A big Likud Beytenu is needed to face the Leftist bloc.”
“This is a clear warning sign for right-wing voters not to repeat mistakes of the past,” MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) said. “The only way to ensure a strong, nationalist government to face the Left is to vote Likud.”
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett reassured his voters that he would choose Netanyahu as prime minister regardless of the new bloc on the Left.
“Yacimovich and Livni gave up on the possibility of forming a social coalition that will bring equality in the burden of service and help the middle class, all for another unnecessary round of talks with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas],” Bennett said.
“Now it’s clear who will represent the middle class in the government.
Equality in the burden can’t be promoted by shouting from the opposition,” he said.
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.