Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog (L) and Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni announce their political alliance in Tel Aviv .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The new Center-Left list formed by Labor leader Isaac Herzog and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni could defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud by four seats, a Panels Research poll taken Wednesday night for The Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister paper Ma'ariv Sof Hashavua found.
The poll found that if elections were held now, the Center-Left list would win 24 seats, Likud 20, Bayit Yehudi 17, Yisrael Beytenu 10, Kulanu 10, Yesh Atid nine, United Torah Judaism eight, Shas six, Meretz six, Hadash five and the United Arab List that will include Balad five.
With such results, Herzog would not be able to form a coalition of the necessary 61 MKs, unless he could get either Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz or Yesh Atid and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties to coexist. By contrast, Netanyahu could easily form a stable coalition of 71 MKs from the Right, haredi parties and Kulanu or try to build a wider national unity government with the Center-Left list.
When the poll asked what would happen if Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, economist Manuel Trajtenberg and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid joined the Center-Left list, it skyrocketed to 35 seats. But the additions would not make it easier for Herzog to form a government.
Lapid reacted for the first time to Livni's decision to join Labor and not Yesh Atid at Thursday's Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem. He criticized the Right and the Left and painted himself as a centrist in between the two extremes.
"The agreement between Labor and Hatnua clarified the political situation in Israel," he said later Thursday. "There are now clear choices - On the left there is Labor and Meretz. On the right there is Likud and Bayit Yehudi, who are becoming more and more radical. Then there is the center. The coming elections won't be between left and right. The coming elections will be between right and center. Most of the citizens of Israel are in the center."
Speaking to hundreds of diplomats and reporters at the conference, Lapid issued his harshest criticism yet of Netanyahu's diplomatic and security policies.
"I don't think anyone could outline where the prime minister thinks we should go from here," he said. "Not even he can describe his own plan, because what I have learned from sitting next to him in the security cabinet is that he has no plan."
Lapid said that by contrast he has a plan that involves reaching out to the Arab League and moderate Arab states like Egypt and Jordan that could help the Palestinian leadership make concessions at the negotiating table without fear more radical Muslims.
"Immediately after the election, I will suggest to [Egyptian] president Sisi that the new prime minister of Israel come to Sharm El Sheik to the Arab League and announce the beginning of regional dialogue to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said.
Lapid said separating from the Palestinians via the two-state solution would jump start the economy and cause a large rise in Israel's gross domestic product.
"Another round of bilateral talks won't be different from the previous ones," he said. "What we have to change is not what we talk about but who we are talking with. We need regional dialogue. Without it, the Palestinians will never agree to a deal."
Likud deputy minister Ofir Akunis responded to the speech, saying that Lapid should be more modest when lecturing about security, considering his only security experience consisted of cutting the defense budget and reading speeches about security from teleprompters.