Unveiling merger with Sa’ar, Gantz hopes it will reopen path to elusive premiership

Benny Gantz unsuccessfully tried to oust Benjamin Netanyahu and become prime minister leading an alliance with Yair Lapid in three elections in 2019-20.

Then Gantz parted ways with Lapid and thought he had brokered a deal with Netanyahu that would eventually grant him the premiership, only for the cunning Likud leader to walk away unsurprisingly.

Then, last year, when Netanyahu was finally defeated after yet another round of elections, it was a Naftali Bennett-Lapid coalition that secured the majority. Thus, Bennett first became prime minister; now it’s Lapid… and Gantz is still waiting.

On Sunday evening, Gantz announced his latest tilt to the top job, this time partnering Gideon Sa’ar. “We are laying the foundation stone of the next government,” he proclaimed confidently, admirably unwavering by past performance. It would be a government that said “yes to unity for all parts of the country and all types of citizens,” he continued, carefully checking the names of potential post-election allies: “ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, secular; Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews.

The alliance of Defense Minister Gantz’s Blue and White and Justice Minister Sa’ar New Hope seems to have at least limited meaning for both of them. Together, they expect to capture support from both the political center and what Gantz has defined as “the political right” — a term that would seem to refer to the right that does not support Netanyahu.

And they reasonably assume that support will be bolstered on Nov. 1 by their stated refusal to associate with unspecified “extremists” — an alleged reference to the far-right Religious Zionism party and the Common List of Mainly Arab Parties in the opposite. of the political spectrum.

Announcing their union, Gantz and Sa’ar did not respond to any questions from reporters, and therefore offered no details regarding the “broad common ground” Sa’ar said he recently discovered they shared. Judging by their positions to date, their alliance will oppose a Palestinian state, but not the kind of dialogue with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Gantz has maintained. They could back reforms to “fix, not destroy” the justice system, to quote Saar from January 2021. And, presumably, too, they won’t side with Netanyahu, whom Gantz accused Sunday of eroding national cohesion and undermine Israeli democracy.

Ultimately, indeed, what Gantz and Saar unveiled was a pragmatic political alliance between two leaders who are ministers in the outgoing anti-Netanyahu coalition, and who hope their partnership will increase their standing within that bloc.

At the very least, while conceding the No. 1 spot on their roster to Gantz, Sa’ar likely avoided the threat of political oblivion for his new hope.

But Gantz still harbors that bigger dream. And he will have moved closer to the prime minister’s elusive target if the ‘political right’, the anti-Netanyahu right, turns out to have swelled considerably since the electorate was last dragged into the voting booths a while ago. barely a year.

But while that seems unlikely, Gantz nonetheless hopes his merged party will be strong enough to play a more dominant role in coalition negotiations than it could when Lapid maneuvered to establish government last year. Maybe, just maybe, the post-November 1 arithmetic in the Knesset will pave the way for prime minister for the leader of a center-right alliance, hostile to Netanyahu but not anathema to the parties ultra-Orthodox. Maybe, just maybe, if Netanyahu again fails to muster a majority, he, rather than Lapid, will be in the best position to take the reins.

After all, Gantz’s Blue and White and Sa’ar’s New Hope already have 14 seats between them in the outgoing Knesset, and hope their alliance will prove even greater than the sum of its current parts. And Naftali Bennett, as Gantz well remembers, found his unlikely way to the prime minister’s office leading a party of just seven.

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