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Netanyahu rivals Explore alliance to try to eradicate Israel's long-standing prime minister



TEL AVIV – Two of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's most formidable opponents are in negotiations to form a united front and face a deadline this week to declare whether they will join their political camps to try to fend off him.

Mr. Netanyahu's rivals from center, Benny Gantz, a retired Israeli army chief who entered politics late last year, and Yair Lapid, a former television anchor, became pressurized by opponents of right-wing Netanyahu to combine forces. 19659002] Some recent polls show that Gantz's Israel Resilience Party and Mr. Lapid's Yesh Atid party could net more seats than Mr. Netanyahu's Likud. The leaders and their advisers have often huddled in an attempt to haveh out a possible political alliance prior to the election on April 9.

Some observers see the negotiations as a test of whether Israel's fractal politicians can put their personal aspirations away ̵

1; and suppress policy differences – for a shot at forming a government under a new prime minister.

A governing coalition has a majority of 61 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

If mr. Gantz and Lapid must succeed in running together and beat Mr Netanyahu, should they have to be close to as many seats as Mr. Netanyahu's Likud, who leads the polls, then links a majority of seats representing a legally inclined voter to the formation of a government.

"The only way to get a winning coalition and a party bigger than Mr. Netanyahu is … is the mobilization of a group that will set aside the ego and unite for a common goal," said the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in an op-ed in the Haaretz newspaper last week.

All Israeli politicians, including Mr Gantz and Lapid, face a Thursday time to submit their party lists to Israel's Central Election Committee. These lists should reveal whether the politicians will run like a ticket.

"The alternative [for uniting with Mr. Gantz] is still on the table," Lapid said on Monday evening at an event announcing the party's election shift. "I will not take it down to the last minute. We will turn every stone."

Lapid's party recently played down the prospect, among other things. because Mr. The Gantz party has not been clear enough on issues that are at the heart of the Yesh Atid party. It includes, if Mr. Gantz supports the separation of the Palestinians through a two-state solution, education reform and under what conditions they would sit in a Netanyahu-led government.

"The idea is to win. But a ruling party needs policies. We cannot go to elections without people who know what your standards are," said Mr. Lapid on Monday's event.

  Former Israeli armed forces Benny Gantz is in talks to adapt to Yair Lapid, a former TV anchor, to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Former Israeli Armed Forces Benny Gantz is in talks to adapt to Yair Lapid, a former TV anchor, to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Photo:

Andreas Gebert / Reuters

A spokeswoman for Mr Gantz said his party "is holding talks with all willing potential partners who share our vision and hope for the state of Israel. All will be completed in the coming days."

Men. Gantz and Lapid weigh a union at a politically dangerous time for Mr. Netanyahu, seeking a fifth term and facing three corruption probes. Israel's lawyer, Avichai Mandelblit, is expected to announce he will file Mr. Netanyahu this month.

Although Mr. Netanyahu remains popular with his political base, he stumbled on a recent trip abroad, including kicking a feud with the Polish government over the Holocaust. The sweep asked the Polish government to withdraw from a summit in Jerusalem this week, which Netanyahu had planned to use to strengthen his diplomatic credentials.

Herr. Netanyahu's party remains at the forefront and is currently favored in April.

Mr. Netanyahu's opponents have failed to exploit the prime minister's moments of political weakness before. In 2009, Mr. Netanyahu not most seats, but still became prime minister. The head of a centrist party who captured most seats, Kadima's Tzipi Livni, failed to tie a coalition together.

And despite a common opponent and centrist policy, the camps of Mr Gantz and Lapid remain shared – and not just policies.

For Mr. Gantz would run solo offering more flexibility about whether he or she did not attend a Netanyahu-led government. He said he would not be part of a government if Mr. Netanyahu is accused, but left the door open to sit with him if the prime minister has not been formally charged.

Mr. Lapid, with Mr. Gantz probably means throwing the top of a political ticket and passing the keys to a sophisticated party device, according to political analysts and people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Lapid's Yesh Atid (which means there is a future) boasts 140 active branches and 15,000 volunteers that he has spent the last seven years together. Sir. Gantz's protests have 15 regional directors and thousands of volunteers, according to a spokeswoman. Yet Mr. Gantz's popularity far greater than that of Mr. Lapid in polls.

Some political observers say an alliance between the two parties, and negotiations on who ends up with which roles can be full.

"All of the people who talk about joining are political entrepreneurs who are the founders of their own political party," said Mitchell Barak, a political analyst and director of Keevoon Global Research, a Jerusalem based consulting firm. "Why should they act in their founders to another company for seat and senior position when they lose full control over what they want to do, and they don't necessarily need the money?"

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com


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