Leaders positioning themselves ahead of coalition-building process


Israel’s political leaders gave further indications yesterday of who they might support to form the next government, ahead of next week’s general election.

With polls indicating this week that the Zionist Union, headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, has opened up a lead ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, speculation has increased over how Herzog might form a coalition. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid yesterday gave his strongest indication yet that his party, which is set to win up to 15 seats, would be part of such an arrangement. Although he did not pledge to back any specific leader, Lapid ruled our recommending that Netanyahu lead the country. He said, “The chances of us recommending Netanyahu are zero … Netanyahu has lost the State of Israel.”

Speculation continued over the position of the ultra-Orthodox parties, which could be crucial for either Herzog or Netanyahu to form a government. Shas leader Aryeh Deri last week declared his support for Netanyahu at a party rally. However, Haaretz yesterday quoted Deri saying that he had not ruled out joining a Herzog-led coalition. This morning, Deri appeared to reaffirm his allegiance to Netanyahu in a radio interview.

Meanwhile, Herzog indicated that the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party (UTJ) had not yet committed either way. Although regarded as a more natural ally for Netanyahu, Herzog told Channel Ten that UTJ leaders had called him and said they had yet to make a decision. Senior UTK MK Moshe Gafni appeared to confirm Herzog’s assertion, telling Channel One, “We will decide only after the election whom to support. We are not ruling out a meeting with anyone.”

However, the ultra-Orthodox parties have expressed significant animosity towards Lapid, who they perceive as having spearheaded measures against their constituency as Finance Minister in the last government. Meanwhile Meretz, viewed as a natural ally for the Zionist Union yesterday launched a campaign with the slogan “We mustn’t lose Meretz” with the party polling dangerously close to the minimum electoral threshold.