Two Israeli parties sign vote deal that might hurt Netanyahu

Gwen Ackerman

Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz’s Blue & White party signed a vote-transfer agreement with a potential kingmaker that could hurt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of re-election next month.

Polls show Gantz’s centrist party in a near tie with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, with each winning around 30 parliamentary seats.

While Netanyahu’s bloc, consisting of his traditional political allies, is forecast to secure several more seats than Gantz’s grouping, that could change if Blue & White is joined by Avigdor Liberman, whose party’s predicted to take 10 seats.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers his speech during meeting with businessmen in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019.  Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz’s party signed an agreement with a potential kingmaker that could hurt Netanyahu’s chances of re-election.

So-called “surplus vote” agreements allow two parties to combine ballots each receives that don’t qualify for a full Knesset seat. Seats won this way go the party that contributes the larger number of extra votes.

“I say this sadly but today it is official, Liberman transfers votes from the right to the left,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office. “Only a large Likud under my leadership will prevent a left-wing government.”

Netanyahu called a snap reelection in May after Liberman refused to join his cabinet following elections. The next ballot is set for Sept. 17.

Yonatan Freeman, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said that while the agreement between two secular parties made sense, Liberman has indicated he wants a unity government of all main factions.

Liberman “has said that his dream government is really Liberman, Blue & White and Likud,” he said.