Netanyahu's strongest challengers form alliance in Israeli election

By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strongest challengers in an election in April joined forces on Thursday, adding more potency to the centrist candidates' bid to end the right-wing leader's decade in power.

Reuters February 22, 2019 03:07:09 IST
Netanyahu's strongest challengers form alliance in Israeli election

Netanyahus strongest challengers form alliance in Israeli election

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strongest challengers in an election in April joined forces on Thursday, adding more potency to the centrist candidates' bid to end the right-wing leader's decade in power.

In anticipation of the announcement of a new alliance between former military chief Benny Gantz' Resilience party and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid faction, Netanyahu engineered a merger of far-right parties on Wednesday that could help him build a governing coalition after the ballot.

Resilience, in a statement, said Gantz, Lapid and Moshe Yaalon, a former defence minister, "decided to establish a joint list that will comprise the new Israeli ruling party".

Gantz and Lapid, who met overnight, agreed on a "rotation for the prime minister's post" in which Gantz would hold office for the first two-and-a-half years of a new government's term before Lapid took over.

In their campaigns, both candidates have portrayed Netanyahu, who will become Israel's longest-serving prime minister this summer if he wins the April 9 ballot, as haughty with power and criminally corrupt.

But even as Netanyahu faces possible indictment in three corruption investigatioins, opinion polls have predicted his Likud party will take about 30 seats in the 120-member parliament, putting him on track to form a rightist coalition similar to the one he now heads.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Resilience and Yesh Atid have been trailing Likud by a wide margin, in second and third place. But the surveys also predicted a much tighter race and a possible upset should Gantz, 59, and Lapid, 55, team up and then form a centrist and left-wing parliamentary bloc larger than a Likud-led alliance.

Yuli Edelstein, speaker of the Israeli parliament and a top member of Likud, said the centrist merger made it more imperative for the right-wing to present a "united and strong" front.

"Any alternative will set Israel back by decades in terms of its economy and security," he wrote on Twitter.

While Gantz and Lapid worked out their deal, Netanyahu helped negotiate the merger of two far-right parties, Jewish Home and Jewish Power, that could give followers of the late anti-Arab rabbi, Meir Kahane, a stronger voice in politics and help the prime minister in coalition-building.

Netanyahu has vowed to remain in office even if Israel's attorney-general decides to accept police recommendations to indict him in the corruption probes. But political commentators have said coalition partners might press for him to step down.

The prime minister is suspected of wrongfully accepting gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensing favours in alleged bids for favourable coverage in a newspaper and a website.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.