Blue and White boycotts Knesset votes over legislative holdup, angering partners

Gantz’s party claims ‘breach of coalition obligations’ on matters of security; coalition slams defense minister’s ‘childish behavior,’ delays planned votes

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Citing a list of gripes with the current government, Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party declared a boycott on Monday of Knesset votes, leading the coalition to pull several bills from the evening’s plenum agenda.

Blue and White proclaimed that it would not cooperate on government-backed bills due to “the apparent damage to state security and the breach of coalition obligations for a period of months.”

Gantz and the other members of the party decided to skip all Knesset plenum votes on Monday, with the exception of a no-confidence motion. The defense minister said he has been holding a “quiet dialogue” with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to address a series of concerns, including passing the ultra-Orthodox draft law, benefits for reserve soldiers, reforms to the national service system, and legislation to ease the way from military service to higher education.

The Blue and White statement did not explicitly mention military pensions, but Gantz railed against the government on the issue during a speech Monday morning. He claimed that critics of the pension hike were spreading “blood libels” against military officers.

Gantz and Bennett met on Monday afternoon in the Knesset but did not come to any agreement, and the government withdrew legislation that was slated to come up for a vote on Monday evening. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Bennett praised the government’s behavior and admitted “there’s a problem — we’ll fix this problem too.”

At a meeting of his party’s faction on Monday afternoon, Gantz blamed “populists” within the government for “undermining” the security of the state.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speak in the Knesset, on September 2, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

“It saddens me that political and populist elements, some of them outright post-Zionists, have decided to consciously undermine the security of the state, the conscripts, permanent servicemen and reservists who guard the country, and are more important to the struggle against Iran than any plane or sophisticated system,” Gantz said at the faction meeting.

Gantz said it “cannot be that time after time the fringes grab hold of the center of the government… Blue and White will not compromise on the laws and policies required for [Israel’s security] in the Knesset and government.”

Following Gantz’s announcement, sources in the coalition slammed the defense minister for his behavior, and members of the opposition mocked him.

“This is childish behavior by Gantz, who thinks everyone is stupid,” said a statement carried by Hebrew media and attributed to coalition officials. “This isn’t about the security of the state, rather the pensions of his friends.”

The statement suggested that Gantz was “once again trying to undermine the coalition’s stability like a little boy — perhaps he is again imagining a government with Bibi [Netanyahu].”

Opposition Likud MK Miki Zohar tweeted that Gantz’s comments make it “appear that the coalition has given up on him.”

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