Netanyahu rivals fail to form election pact in Israel
By Ari Rabinovitch
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Three Israeli centrist and left-leaning parties have failed in an initial attempt to form a united bloc that might have cut into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opinion poll lead before the January 22 election.
"We didn't reach any agreement, unfortunately," centrist Hatenuah party chief Tzipi Livni told Israel Radio on Monday after she took part in a late-night meeting on Sunday with the heads of the centrist Yesh Atid and left-leaning Labour parties.
Livni, a former foreign minister and peace negotiator with the Palestinians, declined to discuss details of the negotiations but said she still hoped the three parties could achieve a unity pact.
Opinion polls predict that Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, running in the election in partnership with the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu faction led by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, will easily win the national ballot.
Livni said a joint center-left campaign would have attracted enough undecided voters, seeking an alternative to Netanyahu, to create a bloc of more than 40 seats in the 120-member parliament, topping the 37 forecast for Likud-Yisrael Beitenu.
Polls predict the three parties running separately will amass seats that number only in the mid-30s.
In the election, Israelis vote for a party's list of parliament, and no one faction has ever won a majority in the legislature.
After the ballot, Israel's president chooses a party leader to try to put together a governing coalition. That is usually, but not always, the head of the party that won the most parliamentary seats. Continued...