(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s defense and justice ministers agreed to merge their political parties ahead of the country’s fifth elections in four years, a move that could see Benny Gantz become the head of one of the biggest groupings in the 120-seat parliament.
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Gantz and Gideon Saar announced their accord on Sunday night, in a deal that would put Gantz first on the list, and Saar second. The two party leaders agreed that the merger of Gantz’s Blue and White, and Saar’s New Hope would create a large, “patriotic” party combining right-wing political ideas with a centrist approach toward security, Saar said.
Israelis will head to the polls on Nov. 1 for the fifth time since 2019, following the collapse last month of a shaky eight-party coalition bound together by little except its opposition to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yair Lapid, who leads Israel’s second-largest party, Yesh Atid, took over from Naftali Bennett as the country’s prime minister following the dissolution of parliament on June 30.
Given Saar’s strident opposition to Netanyahu’s return to power, Sunday’s announcement could complicate the former Israeli premier’s path to form a governing majority.
His Likud party continues to lead in the polls, putting him in pole position to return as prime minister after the elections -- but only if he can cobble together support from a majority of the 120-member parliament.
The pact between Blue and White and New Hope has probably saved Saar’s party, which was polling below the 3.25% threshold ahead of the announcement. A survey by the Israeli television channel N12 put the combined party on 15 seats, or around 12.5% of the vote, which would make them the third-largest grouping in parliament, after Likud and Yesh Atid.
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