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Israel elections: Netanyahu challengers Gantz and Lapid join forces

Image copyrightAFP Image captionFormer IDF chief Benny Gantz (L) and TV -host-turned politician Yair Lapid formed on alliance on Wednesday                 Two of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's strongest challengers in April elections have announced a centrist alliance in a bid to defeat him Ex-army chief Benny Gantz and centrist politician Yair Lapid agreed to rotate as prime minister if they win. Separately, Mr. Netanyahu forged an alliance with several parties to try to shore up votes. His right-wing Likud party leads the polls into investigation allegations against him. The Israeli Attorney general is due to make a decision on whether Mr Netanyahu, who denies the allegations, should be charged in the coming weeks. Who are the challengers? Mr Gantz, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and TV-journalist-turned politician Yair Lapid announced their intention to run on a joint center ticket on Wednesday, before the Thursday deadline to submit candidate lists for the 9th April elections. They were also joined by forms Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and ex-military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. The center ground agreement is seen as making the race more competitive and a challenge to Mr Netanyahu's decade-long premiership, the BBC's Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman says Mr Gantz's Resilience party said in a statement that it had "decided to establish a joint list that will comprise the new Israeli ruling party", and dedicated to reunite Israeli society. If successful at the polls, Mr Gantz agreed to hold office as prime minister for the first two-and-a-half…

 Combo image of former Israeli chief of staff Benny Gantz (L) and Yair Lapid, chairman of Israel

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Former IDF chief Benny Gantz (L) and TV -host-turned politician Yair Lapid formed on alliance on Wednesday

Two of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s strongest challengers in April elections have announced a centrist alliance in a bid to defeat him

Ex-army chief Benny Gantz and centrist politician Yair Lapid agreed to rotate as prime minister if they win.

Separately, Mr. Netanyahu forged an alliance with several parties to try to shore up votes.

His right-wing Likud party leads the polls into investigation allegations against him.

The Israeli Attorney general is due to make a decision on whether Mr Netanyahu, who denies the allegations, should be charged in the coming weeks.

Who are the challengers?

Mr Gantz, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and TV-journalist-turned politician Yair Lapid announced their intention to run on a joint center ticket on Wednesday, before the Thursday deadline to submit candidate lists for the 9th April elections.

They were also joined by forms Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and ex-military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

The center ground agreement is seen as making the race more competitive and a challenge to Mr Netanyahu’s decade-long premiership, the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman says

Mr Gantz’s Resilience party said in a statement that it had “decided to establish a joint list that will comprise the new Israeli ruling party”, and dedicated to reunite Israeli society.

If successful at the polls, Mr Gantz agreed to hold office as prime minister for the first two-and-a-half years, before Mr Lapid takes over.

Where does Netanyahu stand?

Opinion polls predict Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party will receive the most parliamentary seats and will be in a position to form another governing coalition of nationalist and religious parties.

All governments in Israel are of the country’s system of proportional representation, meaning a single party is unlikely

  • Israel in profile

On Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu helped negotiate with the far-right Jewish Home and ultra-right Jewish Power parties, in a bid to boost the total number of seats held by right-wing parties after the polls.

As part of an alliance with his Likud party, he agreed to set aside two cabinet posts for the Jewish Home party, as long as it agreed to the merger.

However, his critics decried the move to join forces with Jewish Power, which includes disciples of the late anti-Arab extremist rabbi Meir Kahane.

US-born rabbi led a right-wing fundamentalist group in the 1

980s that advocated attacks on Arabs, and was later outlawed under Israeli anti-terrorist legislation.

Media caption is unsupported on your device

Media caption Mr Netanyahu’s campaign has been overshadowed by the possibility of attorney general acceptance policy recommendations on suspicion of committing fraud and bribery in three cases.

The prime minister has left to remain in office whatever the outcome of the attorney general’s decision.

If he wins, he will be on course to become Israel’s longest serving leader, taking over that title from David Ben-Gurion.

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