Isaac Herzog, the leader of Israel’s center-left Labor Party, and Tzipi Livni, the recently dismissed justice minister and the leader of a small centrist faction, announced on Wednesday that they would run on a joint slate in elections next March in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the conservative Likud Party from winning a fourth term. The move injected an intriguing twist to the start of the election campaign. It also added an element of uncertainty for Mr. Netanyahu eight days after he fired Ms. Livni and his centrist finance minister, Yair Lapid, saying their public criticism of his policies made it impossible to govern the country and calling early elections less than two years after the last ballot. Mr. Herzog and Ms. Livni said that if they won enough votes to form the next government, they would take turns in the role of prime minister, with Mr. Herzog serving for the first two years and Ms. Livni for the second two, in an Israeli political compromise known as rotation. That deal seemed lopsided since the Labor Party, now with 15 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, is likely to win more than Ms. Livni’s Hatnua party, which currently has six.
But Mr. Herzog, who advocates a peace deal with the Palestinians and promises to ease the economic situation for hard-pressed Israelis, said they were offering leadership based on cooperation to voters who were sick of the “me, me, me” approach.
Ms. Livni, a former Likud politician who moved to the center and has become a strong advocate for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, described herself as a “force multiplier” to bring a change of government and “to unite the Zionist camp and end the leadership of the extreme right.”
For Mr. Netanyahu, the decision to call an early election against the backdrop of intense bickering within his coalition was beginning to look like an increasingly risky bet.
Polls have indicated that a majority of the Israeli public has had enough of Mr. Netanyahu, even though he still commands the most support as the most viable candidate for prime minister. But recent polls have also shown that a merger between Labor, Hatnua and another small centrist party that has yet to join could garner more votes than the Likud, and the gap between Mr. Netanyahu’s and Mr. Herzog’s ratings has been closing.
Even if they won more votes than the Likud, though, Mr. Herzog and Ms. Livni would almost certainly have to form a coalition themselves and might face a challenge in attracting enough other parties.
Full Article: Alliance Adds Twist to Israeli Elections – NYTimes.com.