Left-wing parties try unsuccessfully to unite against Netanyahu

Wednesday, January 09, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

With less than two weeks until Israel's general election, the main left-wing parties are scrambling to find a way to defeat incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is Likud Party.

Already the left wing vote has been fractured to the point that no single party has a realistic hope of winning more seats than Likud in the Knesset.

When early elections were first announced late last year, the long-standing Labor Party hoped that the disparate left-wing personalities would rally under its banner. Instead, former Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni formed her own near party, as did popular television host Yair Lapid. And Kadima itself is still around, although the party is in an eviscerated state.

Likud itself is struggling in the polls, and bleeding potential votes to the resurgent right-wing Jewish Home Party and its charismatic new leader, Naftali Bennett. Nevertheless, with the Left so divided, Likud is all but guaranteed to be the largest party and Netanyahu the next prime minister.

Desperate to return to the top of the pyramid, Livni called a joint meeting on Monday with Lapid and Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich. Following the meeting, Livni tried to suggest that a new left-center bloc was forming of which she would be the head. Lapid and Yechimovich immediately attacked Livni, and accused her of deceiving the voting public.

"We met out of mutual respect for each other," said Lapid and Yechimovich in a statement that made clear no formal agreement had been reached. Livni in turn responded by accusing Lapid and Yechimovich of having self-serving interests.

Both Lapid and Livni have refused to rule out the possibility of joining a coalition headed by Netanyahu, while Yechimovich has repeatedly stated that she will either be prime minister or head of the opposition.

The situation is either sticky or opportune for Netanyahu, depending on who is looking at it. It is widely believed that Netanyahu desires a centrist coalition, and so will appeal to Livni, Lapid and Yechimovich to join his government. If Lapid and Livni agree to do so, that will leave Yechimovich with a tiny minority opposition with little or no influence over the government.

On the other hand, Lapid and Livni may be fearful of being seen as "sell-outs," and therefore join the opposition, forcing Netanyahu to form a right-wing government with Bennett. In that scenario, the opposition will be much stronger, and the government policies, especially as regards the land and the peace process, will lean much more to the right.

Either way, it is turning out to be a interesting election season in Israel.

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