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Netanyahu’s rivals join forces on ticket that could threaten Israeli PM’s hold on power

Netanyahu’s rivals join forces on ticket that could threaten Israeli PM’s hold on power
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership could be under threat as two of his political rivals have announced they are merging parties to create a joint ticket that would see them take turns at being prime minister.

Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel Resilience) chairman Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid will run as one ticket in Israel’s April 9 election, they announced Thursday. The two head two center-left parties that present a serious challenge to Netanyahu’s Likud party’s decade-long grip on power.  

Should the pair win the election and find themselves in government, Gantz would be prime minister for two and a half years before Lapid takes over for the next two and a half years, Haaretz reports.

Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi will join the new party. Gantz became IDF Chief of Staff when Ashkenazi stepped down in 2011. Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who was also IDF Chief of Staff, is part of the new party after his own party Telem merged with Gantz at the end of January.

With a February 18 poll showing Hosen L’Yisrael with 18 seats and Yesh Atid with 12, the merger could beat Likud, which polled at 30 seats. While 36 percent of those polled said they would prefer to have Netanyahu as prime minister, 31 percent chose Gantz.

Netanyahu meanwhile has been courting far-right Habayit Hayejudi (Jewish Home), which agreed on Wednesday to partner with right wing party Otzma Yehudit in exchange for ministry and cabinet positions in the new government. Netanyahu’s aim is to increase the number of right wing parties with Knesset seats with a view to create a coalition should he win the election.

"The choice is clear: It's either a left-wing government headed by Lapid and Gantz and supported by a bloc of Arab parties, or a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu." Likud said in a statement Thursday.

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