The day saw frantic last-minute scrambles, defections, mergers and splits as party lists were finally prepared to meet the Wednesday deadline for running in the March 3 election, Israel’s third national ballot in a year. Out front are the ruling Likud led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan. Neither were able to form a government after the April election.
On the fringes, the veteran Labor party set up a technical bloc with the far-left Meretz for a single ticket to beat the threshold, while to the right of Likud, two parties got together to run on a joint ticket, led by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Two smaller religious parties, headed by Education Minister Rafi Peretz and far-right Itamar Gvir, were still holding out as a separate list until the last minute. The Kahol Lavan campaign focuses heavily on the immunity from prosecution dispute hanging unresolved over Netanyahu. Likud stresses the transformational achievements of the party’s decade in power.