Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out inviting Israel Resilience to join his next coalition, in a briefing on Monday evening.
“I won’t go for a government with [Benny] Gantz,” Netanyahu said of the Israel Resilience leader and former IDF chief of staff. “I will first of all form this [current] coalition – a national, Likud government; a right-wing government.”
Israel Resilience responded that “the Zionist government we will build will be one of hope and unity, the very one replacing Netanyahu’s.”
The prime minister spoke at a meeting with public opinion leaders from the religious-Zionist sector in Jerusalem, in which he called for the parties purporting to represent that population to run as a united list.
“Bayit Yehudi, Otzma [Yehudit], Eli Yishai and National Union must unite to save six to seven seats for the Right bloc,” Netanyahu said. “We cannot lose these votes, because in the end, it’s about whether there is a right-wing or a left-wing government. A split in the Right will lead us to lose the elections.”
Netanyahu said that he plans to talk to all of those parties’ leaders to convince them to unite.
“None of them pass the electoral threshold [alone, and]… merging one of them with the Likud doesn’t add seats in our polls, and therefore, it doesn’t reach our goal,” he added.
The prime minister’s remarks come as Bayit Yehudi and National Union agreed to restart negotiations without preconditions, with the goal of finishing talks and uniting as a single list for the April 9 elections.
The two parties ran together in the last two elections, and were expected to do so this time as well. Recent polls have shown that they will be unlikely to pass the electoral threshold of 3.25% if they run separately.
National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich and Bayit Yehudi chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz reached an impasse in negotiations, after Smotrich sought to improve his party’s standing in light of his experience as an MK and popularity in the religious-Zionist sector.
Peretz, a former IDF chief rabbi, is a political neophyte appointed to lead Bayit Yehudi after Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked left the party.
National Union or Bayit Yehudi could also merge with Otzma Yehudit, the right-wing nationalist party, which has repeatedly said it is open to running with them.
However, Otzma said it is preparing to run alone
after Smotrich would not give the party a spot higher than fourth on its list, which the party said does not give its leaders, Itamar Ben-Gvir and former MK Michael Ben-Ari, a realistic chance of getting elected.