Israeli centre-left unity talks fail before vote

Israeli centre-left unity talks fail before vote

JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israeli centre-left unity talks fail before vote

Tzipi Livni, leader of the new Hatnuah (Movement), speaks to party faithful at an election event in Tel Aviv, Israel, 09 December 2012, where she introduced her party list that is running for election in the 22 January 2013 general elections. EPA photo/JIM HOLLANDER

The heads of three of Israel's centrist and leftwing parties met overnight in a bid to create a unified bloc ahead of elections, but failed to reach an agreement, the leaders said on Monday.

"Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement," Tzipi Livni, head of the newly-formed centre-left HaTnuah faction, told military radio.

Livni met with Shelly Yachimovich, head of the leading opposition Labour party, and Yair Lapid of the centre-left Yesh Atid faction, ahead of January 22 elections that are expected to return premier Benjamin Netanyahu to power.

"The goal of the meeting was to find a way to replace the Netanyahu government... I suggested that we have a joint campaign until the elections," she said.

Polls show Netanyahu easily winning the elections, with a joint list combining his Likud party and the Yisrael Beitenu faction set to secure more than 30 seats, and the rightwing bloc of parties taking over 65 seats.

Centrist and leftwing parties by comparison are polling poorly ahead of the elections, and over the weekend Livni urged the factions to join together in a unified front against Netanyahu.
Yachimovich, also speaking to public radio, suggested that differences between the three centre-left parties on whether they would be willing to join a Netanyahu coalition sank the unity talks.
Last week, Labour announced they would not go into government with Netanyahu, but HaTnuah and Yesh Atid have been more coy about their intentions.

"For the public to understand that we represent a serious alternative we must commit to not participating in a government led by Netanyahu," she said Monday.
Lapid, also speaking to military radio, suggested that unity efforts would continue despite the initial failure.

"An agreement doesn't necessarily emerge after every meeting... We will continue to see each other and we have each others phone numbers," he said.
According to the latest polls, the Likud-Beitenu list will take between 34-36 seats in Israel's 120-seat Knesset, a commanding lead but an overall decrease from the 42 seats the parties currently jointly command.
The rightwing bloc led by Netanyahu is expected to garner around 66 seats overall.
In the centre-left bloc, Labour is expected to lead the pack with between 16 to 18 seats, trailed by HaTnuah, with nine to 10 and Yesh Atid with nine to 11.