Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and Justice Minister Gideon Saar’s New Hope party have signed an agreement to run on a joint slate in the upcoming elections, slated for Nov. 1, they announced on Sunday evening. .
Criticizing extremist elements, Gantz told a press briefing that both sides would strive to establish a “responsible, realistic, secure and liberal” government. Such a coalition, he said, “will say no to racism, no to extremism and yes to unity for all parts of the country and all types of citizens…ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, secular; Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews.
“Israel deserves better,” Gantz said, adding that voters “shouldn’t have to choose from the extremes,” but rather deserve a healthy, central option.
This was likely a reference to parties like the predominantly Arab Joint List or far-right Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich, including Itamar Ben Gvir, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction within the left. Ben Gvir entered the Knesset in the March 2021 elections after merging Otzma Yehudit with religious Zionism, in a deal brokered by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to bolster votes of right.
For too long, Gantz said, Netanyahu has dragged the Likud party into positions that undermine national unity and harm Israel’s democratic principles.
“We are laying the foundation stone for the next government,” Gantz said. He called on other groups “that agree with our values” to join their union. His goal, he said, is to unite “all those who support a Jewish, democratic and secure Israel.”
Gantz said he thinks the joint list can attract “a lot of people from the political right” looking for a political home.
“Since I entered politics, I have repeatedly said that we find ourselves in an illogical and unprecedented situation,” Gantz said of the current political stalemate, calling it “the biggest democratic crisis and politics in [Israel’s] the story.”
Israel’s November 1 elections will be the country’s fifth national vote since 2019.
An unsourced report by Channel 12 on Sunday said Gantz and Saar decided their party would not sit in a government with Netanyahu, but while Gantz denounced the Likud leader, neither he nor Saar expressly did. excluded as a potential partner. in the next coalition.
In his speech on Sunday, Grantz praised the outgoing cross-party coalition led until last month by Naftali Bennett, but said a few fringe members had taken it out of the way. Bennett’s unlikely alliance between right, center, left and Islamist parties lasted about a year before breaking up, hampered in the end by the vocal departures of key lawmakers from Bennett’s Yamina party.
Speaking after Gantz, Sa’ar said Israel “needs new hope and a way out of this crisis.” He said he and Gantz had dedicated their lives to the State of Israel and had agreed to join forces to create a “broad, patriotic and center-right” voters list.
Saar also said Gantz – who will take the top spot in the merged party – is the ideal candidate to lead the next government.
Blue and White currently holds 8 seats in the 120-member Knesset; New Hope has 6.
In recent polls, which are not necessarily reliable, Blue and White is expected to receive around 8-9 seats and New Hope 4-5.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the news, saying he believed in the good intentions of Gantz and Sa’ar.
“Wishing Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar well,” Lapid tweeted. “I am convinced that your intentions are good. I look forward to continuing to work with you on behalf of the citizens of Israel.
Lapid’s Yesh Atid ran with Gantz’s Blue and White in the April 2019, September 2019 and March 2020 elections. Gantz then decided to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, causing the parties to split. They have remained separated ever since.
For their joint slate, Gantz and Sa’ar hope to lure former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, who is also heavily courted by Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and is seen as a major catch for either side. the other of the parties because of his great public notoriety. and general popularity.
Eisenkot would take third place if he chose to run with a combined Blue and White-New Hope faction, according to Hebrew media reports.
Eisenkot, who served as military chief of staff from 2015 to 2019, is said to have the ability to bring in voters from both left and right. The retired general was one of the most coveted figures in the March 2021 election cycle, with his name linked in reports to a number of parties, but he ultimately decided not to run.
The remaining spots at the top of the joint list would be held by Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White), Culture Minister Chili Tropper (Blue and White), Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton ( New Hope), Knesset Economics Committee Leader Michael Biton (Blue and White) and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope), according to reports.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel and MK Zvi Hauser, whose Derech Eretz party joined New Hope after splitting from a Blue and White alliance, are unlikely to make the list, though it was unclear which side made this decision.
Hendel is said to be in talks with new Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked to potentially join forces, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
In a Facebook post earlier on Sunday, Hendel said he has no regrets about his tenure and believes he stands by his principles. “I will work hard to ensure that votes for the statesman-like right will have respectable representation in the next Knesset,” he wrote. “I promise to let you know soon.”
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