Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, speaks during an event at a synagogue with Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president-elect, not pictured, in the Copacabana neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photographer: Leo Correa/Pool via Bloomberg)

Israel's Opposition Zionist Union Falls Apart Before Election

(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s opposition, which just last week stressed the need to merge forces to beat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in upcoming elections, has splintered instead.

Labor chairman Avi Gabbay announced Tuesday he was breaking up the Zionist Union -- his party’s alliance with former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua -- which was parliament’s second-largest faction. The bloc has been tanking in the polls, projected to receive less than 10 of parliament’s 120 seats, compared to its current 24.

Israel's Opposition Zionist Union Falls Apart Before Election

“I hoped and believed that the change and the new partnership would lead to growth, to a real connection and mutual admiration,” Gabbay said. ”But the public is smart and saw that this wasn’t the reality and distanced itself.”

Gabbay didn’t elaborate, but The Times of Israel reported Thursday that Livni had approached Benny Gantz to ask the former military chief of staff about joining his new party. The Israeli political landscape has been churning since the governing coalition announced last week that it would dissolve itself and move up elections by more than half a year to April 9, with parties forming and fracturing.

Fragmenting Right

On Saturday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked broke away from the Jewish Home party Bennett led, creating a new right-wing party. Some analysts and one poll have suggested that move could compromise Netanyahu’s grip on power by shrinking the conservative bloc he traditionally depends on to form a coalition government. Other polls show Netanyahu continuing to defeat all comers.

Israel's Opposition Zionist Union Falls Apart Before Election

Last week the prime minister said he could no longer function with his current coalition, whose parliamentary majority has shrunk to 61 seats, and would seek a new mandate from voters. Many analysts speculated he also wanted to preempt potential indictment in three corruption cases, though polls have suggested the investigations haven’t weakened his base of support.

Netanyahu, who is visiting Brazil, on Monday sharply criticized Bennett and Shaked’s move. He declined to comment Tuesday on Gabbay’s decision, saying only he wouldn’t get involved “in how the left divides its votes.”

Livni, who was chosen opposition leader over Gabbay’s objections, tweeted that “it’s better that all doubts have been eliminated” so the country can focus on generating “a revolution in the coming elections.”

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