Israeli TV reports Blue and White wary of potential alliance with ex-PM’s new party, Labor and Meretz over concerns it could hurt its prospects among right-wing voters
Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a press conference announcing his return to politics ahead of national elections in September, Tel Aviv, June 26, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
After announcing his return to politics, former prime minister Ehud Barak is pushing for an alliance of center-left factions that would also include the Blue and White party, according to Israeli television reports Friday.
Barak’s envisioned tie-up, which was reported by Channel 12 and the Kan public broadcaster, would include his still unnamed party, Labor, Meretz and Blue and White.
Blue and White, however, is reportedly wary of the proposal, fearing it could hurt it ability to pick up right-wing voters.
“This is a blow to our right flank. We need to bring votes from the right, this is the only way to expand the bloc,” Kan quoted the party saying.
According to Channel 12, Blue and White looked into possibly teaming up with Barak before April’s elections, but determined allying with the former Labor leader would not help it at the polls.
Then defense minister Ehud Barak (R) and then IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi at a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 16, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Further complicating a potential joint run is the bad blood between Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi, who served as IDF chief when Barak was defense minister and is now No. 4 on the Blue and White list.
Barak would likely accuse any parties that didn’t join him of splintering support for a center-left coalition and hampering the bloc’s chances of forming a government, the reports said.
The left-wing Meretz party’s selection of former MK Nitzan Horowitz as its leader on Thursday was seen as boosting the chances of Barak’s proposed alliance, which Labor leadership candidate MK Itzik Shmuli is also reportedly open to joining.
MK Amir Peretz, another contender to be Labor chief, is said to be opposed to joining up with Barak, who defeated him in the center-left party’s leadership primaries in 2007.
Channel 12 news reported Wednesday night that Barak and Blue and White leader Gantz had discussed cooperating ahead of the previous elections in April, but Gantz eventually cut off talks.
Blue and White party leaders (R-L) Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon, and Gabi Ashkenazi, during a faction meeting at the Knesset on May 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush /Flash90)
Barak said Wednesday that Blue and White lacked the “passion” necessary to convince voters and claimed its leaders weren’t willing to fight hard enough to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said that in the coming two or three weeks, his party would introduce a more detailed agenda and list of candidates.
He also said “it is not the size of the party that matters, it is the size of the blocs,” noting Likud and Blue and White each received 35 seats, but Netanyahu easily managed to be tasked with forming the coalition instead of Gantz.
Declaring Netanyahu’s political career to be over, Barak on Wednesday announced the establishment of his new political party that will compete in the September 17 elections. Barak appeared at a press conference in Tel Aviv with his new political partners: former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan, law professor Yifat Biton and entrepreneur Kobi Richter.
“We have come here today to announce the establishment of a new party that will work to reform the country and society… This is not the time to remain sitting on the sidelines,” Barak said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak attend a press conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
“Bibi, this is your last chance to go home on your own,” he continued, imploring the prime minister — who is facing pending charges in three corruption cases — not to plunge the country into “chaos” in order to “save yourself from prison.”
Just hours after Barak announced his political comeback, a television poll said his new party would win six seats if national elections were held today.
Barak, 77, was the IDF’s longest-serving chief of staff and the country’s most decorated soldier before defeating Netanyahu in 1999 to become prime minister.
Following his defeat in 2001 by the late Ariel Sharon, Barak temporarily retired from politics, but returned to lead the Labor Party in 2005. From 2007 to 2013, he served as defense minister, including four years in Netanyahu’s cabinet.
In 2011, he split with Labor, forming the short-lived Atzmaut party so that he could remain in Netanyahu’s coalition despite the objection of most of Labor. Atzmaut was effectively disbanded upon Barak’s second retirement from politics in 2013.