MK Shirly Pinto said Thursday that she left the Yamina party because she believes its new leader, Ayelet Shaked, is prepared to help opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu form a narrow government after the coming elections.
Pinto joined the new National Unity party on Monday, days after formally breaking from Yamina, former prime minister Naftali Bennet’s party. Shaked, the interior minister, was handed leadership of Yamina after Bennett stepped down as premier in June following the government’s collapse, but has since faced several defections.
Shaked went on to form the Zionist Spirit party, a new alliance of Yamina and the minor Derech Eretz faction.
Pinto told the Ynet news outlet in an interview that she had spoken with Shaked and “I understood that apparently she will make up the 61 seats for Netanyahu” that are needed to form a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, “and there will be a narrow government.”
“After four years of elections we need a broad government and a diverse coalition,” she said. The coming November 1 election will be the fifth in that period after successive votes produced a largely deadlocked Knesset with no bloc able to easily form a majority government.
“Our goal is to bring stability to the citizens of Israel and establish broad government,” Pinto said.
Last week another Yamina lawmaker, MK Matan Kahana, also announced that he was joining National Unity. The Walla website reported that before leaving Yamina, Kahana had asked Shaked to commit to not forming a narrow government with Netanyahu but she refused.
Earlier this month Pinto announced that she would not run with Shaked.
National Unity, a merger of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, was launched last week with the addition of former military chief Gadi Eisenkot. The party is aligned with the so-called change bloc in the Knesset that is seeking to form a government without Netanyahu’s Likud party, the largest faction in the Knesset.
Pinto will receive a spot on National Unity’s electoral slate reserved for New Hope, but it was not specified which number.
The party said after she joined that Pinto, a long-time activist for disability-related issues who last year became Israel’s first ever deaf Knesset member, would head a campaign team for advancing the rights of the disabled.
The lawmaker told Ynet that she will continue to work on behalf of those with disabilities.
Recent polls have consistently shown that Shaked’s Zionist Spirit will not pass the threshold for entry into the Knesset.