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Dec 10, 2:03 PM EST

Two Israeli parties join forces against Netanyahu

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Conflict in the Middle East

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's opposition Labor party said Wednesday it is joining forces with a former government partner in a bid to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the country's coming elections.

Labor leader Isaac Herzog announced the alliance with Tzipi Livni of the Hatnuah party amid a hard-hitting critique of Netanyahu's free-market, pro-settler policies, which have seen increasing Israeli economic inequality and a breakdown of the peace process with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

"Six years of Netanyahu and there are still no answers," Herzog said. "The time for change is now."

Standing side-by-side with Livni under a banner proclaiming "Together We Win," Herzog said that if he and the Hatnuah leader formed the next government, they would rotate as prime minister - Herzog for the first two years, Livini for the second two years.

Opinion polls give the joint Herzog-Livni list about 24 seats in the 120-seat Knesset - slightly more than their current total.

That's two or three more seats than polls give Netanyahu, though he retains the option of joining forces with the nationalist Jewish Home Party. That would give him a bloc of 35-40 seats - probably enough to be asked by Israel's president to try to form the next government.

Former Likud lawmaker Moshe Kahlon remains a potential kingmaker in any coalition-building scenario. Known for his combination of egalitarian economics and a relatively hard line with the Palestinians, he has so far given few indications of which bloc he prefers - Netanyahu's or Herzog's.

The elections are set for March 17.

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