(February 6, 2019 / JNS) Former Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff 2019 is leaning toward throwing his hat into the political ring, but he has yet to make a final decision about when he will do so. On Tuesday, Ashkenazi discussed the possibility of his joining a center-left bloc and said he was “working on it.”
However, it currently appears that both Israel Resilience, the new party formed by Benny Gantz, and Yesh Atid are rejecting any scenario in which the two parties would run on a joint ticket, with Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid heading the joint party in a rotation agreement.
Sources close to these political developments are saying that Lapid is under intense pressure from both Yesh Atid donors and Yesh Atid voters to join forces with Gantz. He is expected to delay a decision until just before the deadline for parties to announce their final lists on Feb. 21.
Although Yesh Atid has been continually falling in the polls, Lapid is still saying he will not forgo the top spot on any joint list. Still, Lapid continues to court Gantz and refer to him as “Benny” in an effort to create a sense that the two party leaders are close.
No comment on a possible rotating leadership was forthcoming from either party.
According to current assessments, if the talks on a possible Israel Resilience-Yesh Atid merger do not progress and Lapid holds off on agreeing to run in the No. 2 spot on a joint list with Gantz, Ashkenazi will announce that he is joining Gantz’s party. If he does, Ashkenazi could attract more votes to Israel Resilience at the expense of Yesh Atid, thereby exerting greater pressure on Lapid to agree to a party merger.
One possible option that has been floated would be a joint party with four leaders: Gantz, Lapid, Ashkenazi and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who announced last week that his Telem Party would be running on a single ticket with Israel Resilience.
If such a decision is made, all four would appear on campaign posters, and the campaign would stress that all four were party leaders.
On Tuesday, Ashkenazi met with activists outside his home in Kfar Saba in central Israel who were calling for the center-left to unite, under the Hebrew slogan Bli ichud, hakol avud—a play on words that, depending on the spelling, can mean either “Without unity, all is lost” or “Without unity, the vote is lost.” A similar demonstration was held outside Lapid’s home 10 days ago.
“I can’t argue with you about the need for unity. I’m really working on it,” Ashkenazi told the activists, adding that he would make a final decision in the next few days.