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Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AFP/Getty Images

Hours before the registration deadline for Israel's elections, the two main political rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that they will join forces and merge their parties into a single, centrist party that will run in the April 9 contest.

Why it matters: This is the most dramatic development in the Israeli election campaign so far. According to the last few weeks of polling, a joint list led by former Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, the leader of the "Yesh Atid" party, and former IDF chief of staff Benni Gantz, the head of the new "Resilience for Israel" party, would be the biggest party in the Knesset and could possibly beat Netanyahu.

Details: The new centrist list, named "Blue and White" after the colors of the Israeli flag, will include 3 different parties and 5 heavyweight political actors — 3 of them are retired Generals who previously served as the IDF's chief of staff:

  • Gantz's "Resilience for Israel."
  • Lapid's "Yesh Atid."
  • The "Telem" party, led by former minister of Defense and IDF chief of staff Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon, which has right-wing views, especially on the Palestinian issue.
  • Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who mediated between Gantz and Lapid and remains highly popular in Israel, making his entrance into politics very meaningful.
  • The current head of Histadrut, the workers' union, Avi Nissenkorn, who is expected to bring with him an operational apparatus for election day.

The big picture: According to the deal, there will be a rotation agreement for the title of prime minister. If the new list should win the elections, Gantz will be prime minister for 2.5 years and Lapid for the other 18 months. Lapid will head the foreign ministry and Yaalon will act as minister of defense.

  • Yes, but: The joint list does not have a common political platform — and, on many issues, there are big differences between the factions. However, the main issue they all agree on is the need to replace Netanyahu.

What's next ... The joint list has one big advantage on their side: Next week, Israel's attorney general is expected to announce that he is indicting Netanyahu in 3 different corruption cases.

  • The combined formation of the united party and the indictments could push voters to drop Netanyahu and move their support to Gantz and Lapid. If 2 to 3 seats (or about 70,000 to 100,000 voters) switch sides, Netanyahu will lose the elections.

Go deeper: Netanyahu boosts racist far-right party with pre-election deal

Go deeper

30 mins ago - Health

WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking in Geneva in October. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Monday in a new risk assessment that it believes the COVID-19 Omicron variant poses a "very high" risk to the globe because it may be more transmissible than other strains of the virus.

Why it matters: Though the WHO acknowledged there are still many uncertainties associated with the variant, the agency said it believes the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron around the world is "high."

Battle for the soul of a new web

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A well-funded and intensely motivated chunk of tech's hive mind is finding common cause in a vast new project: rebuilding the web on a foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain tech. They call it "Web3."

The big picture: Developers, investors and early adopters imagine a future in which the technologies that enable Bitcoin and Ethereum will break up the concentrated power today's tech giants wield and usher in a golden age of individual empowerment and entrepreneurial freedom.

First look: Biden summons top CEOs on supply chain

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden will meet Monday afternoon with CEOs of big retailers, grocers and consumer-products firms to send this message, according to the White House: Products will be on shelves for holiday shopping.

Zoom out: Black Friday sales rebounded from 2020.