The Labor Party and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni will run together on a joint list for the next Knesset in the March 17 election, Labor leader Isaac Herzog and Livni announced together at a Tel Aviv press conference on Wednesday night.
Despite Labor having 15 seats in the outgoing legislature and Hatnua not passing the new 3.25-percent electoral threshold in some polls, Herzog gave in to Livni’s demand for a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office if the list wins the election and forms the next government. Herzog would serve the first two years, and Livni the remainder of the term.
Livni will be second on the joint candidates list, which will also include reserved slots for Hatnua MKs Amir Peretz and Amram Mitzna, but not for the Hatnua faction’s remaining three lawmakers.
Herzog is also seeking a deal with Kadima that will reserve a slot for its chairman, Shaul Mofaz.
A name for the joint list will be announced in the coming days, but for now, Livni referred to it as the “new Zionist Center.”
The agreement is pending a decision by the Labor central committee, which will convene on Sunday at a party convention where the deal will likely face criticism from MKs and activists who believe Herzog gave up too much.
“I know our move will raise questions, but I am not deterred,” Herzog said. “You have to know how to set egos aside and do what is right for the country, not what is right for personal gain.”
Herzog said that when he became Labor leader, he vowed not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors who had failed to unite the Center-Left parties. He said he realized that uniting was the only way to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and return Labor to power.
Livni, who was wooed by Yesh Atid as well, said she had chosen Labor because she believed Herzog would make a terrific prime minister and that their outlooks were similar.
She said uniting was necessary to stop rightist politicians with whom she had, until recently, served in the government, from continuing to run the country.
“We spoke at length and realized we have the same vision and mission,” she said. “That vision and goal are stronger than any argument you can find between us. We are creating a new Zionist Center against the extreme Right that isolated Israel. No one can complain anymore that there is no chance to win. We have created that chance.”
Despite their criticism of Netanyahu, neither Herzog nor Livni would agree to definitively rule out serving in a government he might lead, but she did say that after what she had endured in her final weeks in the coalition, she did not intend to repeat that experience.
Both Herzog and Livni downplayed that she was now in her fourth party. “She stands for her principles,” Herzog said. But Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach (Bayit Yehudi) mocked Livni, whose first name means “bird” in Hebrew, saying “She flew to another party and got three eggs there, but she will eventually move to another nest.”
Likud officials said it was good for the party that the public would now understand that the race was between the Likud under Netanyahu and the Left under Herzog. They expressed satisfaction that Netanyahu now had a clear opponent in the race and hope that voters on the Right would now realize they must vote Likud and not for another party in the nationalist camp.
“Would you let a wimp with 15 seats who gave up half the store to someone who was not going to pass the electoral threshold negotiate on your behalf?” Likud faction chairman Ze’ev Elkin asked. “The Left is offering a government of musical chairs that will divide the premiership like a cake in a kindergarten. Who in the public wants a ‘Beauty and the Geek’ government?” Elkin continued, in a reference to a popular television show.
Former welfare and social services minister Moshe Kahlon, who left the Likud, announced on Wednesday that his party’s name would be Kulanu, which is Hebrew for “All of us.”