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February 16, 2019 1:27 pm

Unity Talks Between Leading Israeli Opposition Parties Coming Down to ‘Core Issues’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid (left) and Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz (right). Photos: Adi Cohen Zedek via Wikimedia Commons and Reuters / Amir Cohen.

In a process that could prove pivotal in the upcoming Israeli elections, unity talks between the two leading opposition parties have advanced to the point where “core issues” are now under consideration, according to local media reports.

A list that unifies Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and the new Israel Resilience party of former general Benny Gantz could upend Israeli politics. Polls have shown that it is the only potential political formulation that could unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party.

According to the reports, the chairman of the Yesh Atid faction Ofer Shelah stated on Saturday that there are currently direct contacts underway between Gantz and Lapid.

“Unity will not be just according to who is in the first place” on a unified party list “as it is currently being portrayed in the media,” Shelah said. “It will also be essential questions on core issues.”

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“I say unequivocally: without answers on these questions, there will be no unity,” he added.

These “core issues,” Shelah said, include, “Will we or will we not join a government, the head of which has been indicted, even before a hearing,” a reference to Netanyahu’s ongoing legal troubles. “We have a very clear stance here, and we still haven’t received an answer from Israel Resilience.”

Another Yesh Atid leader, Ram Ben-Barak, a former deputy director of the Mossad, accused Gantz of “fogginess,” saying, “he wants to be liked by everyone,” likely referring to Gantz’s initial reluctance to directly address specific political issues.

Referring to former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who joined Gantz’s party and is seen as hawkish on security matters, Barak said, “On the issue of the (Israeli -Palestinian) conflict, for example, I don’t know if Israel Resilience is Gantz or Ya’alon. Yesh Atid wants to disengage from the Palestinians, and it is desirable for this to be done through an agreement.”

Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen echoed these sentiments, saying “we are talking” with Israel Resilience, but “the question is whether there is agreement on essential issues. I say to Gantz’s people, some of whom are friends of mine, if you won’t give us clear answers on an essential issue there can be no unification.”

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