More political mergers on the way? Netanyahu leaves options open

Likud and New Right show signs of eyeing cooperation, but Gabbay refuses to work with Meretz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) flanked by Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) flanked by Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated Saturday night that he is open to the Likud merging with other parties, seeking to set aside places on his party’s list.
In a letter to Likud members, Netanyahu said he is “convinced that this is necessary in order to increase our chance of winning the election.”
Likud members will be asked, in conjunction with the party primary on Tuesday, to vote on whether to allow Netanyahu to appoint three candidates in the 21st, 28th and 36th places on the Likud list. He previously was allowed to make one appointment to the Likud list.
“We are standing before a difficult battle,” Netanyahu wrote in the letter. “The Left and the media are making great efforts to bring down the Likud government. We must be prepared.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman said the prime minister is seeking the change to prepare for expected mergers on the Left.
In recent days, several signs have pointed to a merger on the Right, despite acrimony between Netanyahu and New Right leaders Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Netanyahu took out polls examining whether a combined list of Likud and New Right would get more seats than the Likud running alone, KAN reported. The Likud’s spokesman would not confirm or deny the report.
On Thursday, Shaked left a door open for cooperation.
“If there will be a big united [bloc] on the Left, there certainly may be a big united [bloc] on the Right,” Shaked said in an interview with Channel 12.
The New Right commented that “there are no talks between the New Right and the Likud. The map of [political] blocs will not change. The Right bloc is larger than the Left bloc. What will happen is that, without a strong New Right, Netanyahu, without blinking, will give the Justice Ministry to Tzipi Livni again, and Defense to [Israel Resilience Party leader Benny] Gantz and we will go back to stalemate governments that support a Palestinian state, freed thousands of terrorists and allowed unbridled judicial activism.”
Also Saturday, Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah said Israel Resilience leader Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid are continuing their talks about a merger.
“A decision will be made in the next two weeks,” he said at a cultural event in Ramat Gan. “We have to look at the picture realistically. There are significant matters. [Yesh Atid] knows what we are presenting to the public for four years in every area, and a connection needs to be based on agreed-upon lines.”
Shelah said “the most solid alternative” to Netanyahu is Yesh Atid, and called for the party to lead the bloc that will replace him.
Labor and Meretz probably won’t be merging, in light of comments Labor leader Avi Gabbay made on Saturday at an event in Kfar Saba.
“There are very significant ideological gaps between us and Meretz,” Gabbay said. “A connection with Meretz doesn’t increase our chances to change the country’s leadership.”
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg responded: “What Israel needs is a Left that is clear and confident in itself. That is the only alternative to the extreme, racist Right. It’s amazing that when Labor is tanking under his leadership, Gabbay is continuing to shake off the Left.
“I call all men and women of the Left in Labor and other parties to join us on Israel’s Left,” Zandberg added.