Blue and White party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid said Sunday that in the upcoming September 17 election they will keep their deal to rotate the premiership if they form the next government.
During the last election campaign, the party leaders ran under a rotation agreement that would have seen Gantz serve as prime minister for the first two years and eight months, and Lapid take over for the remainder of the term, had the party won the vote. The agreement was key to the merger of Gantz’s Israel Resilience with Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
“Contrary to speculation and false rumors, Blue and White will run in the next election in the same format that led to the incredible achievement of 35 seats only months ago, including the rotation between Gantz and Lapid,” the party said.
Lapid on Sunday evening tweeted a photo of a meeting at his home of the party’s leadership quartet: Gantz, Lapid and former army chiefs of staff Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi.
According to Haaretz, some senior officials in the party had been against maintaining the rotation agreement, which is seen as a significant hurdle to any future partnership with ultra-Orthodox parties due to their longstanding animosity toward Lapid, whom they perceive as anti-Haredi.
Ya’alon, the party’s No. 3, on Thursday told the Kan public broadcaster that recent events require “rethinking” regarding the ultra-Orthodox.
The new election gives the forces opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu another shot at toppling the longtime leader.
Gantz would be hard-pressed to form a coalition without the ultra-Orthodox parties, since the Arab Israeli parties have never been part of the coalition and together with left-wing parties, Labor and Meretz, Blue and White can currently only muster the support of 45 lawmakers — far short of the necessary 61.
Embattled Labor chairman Avi Gabbay on Friday said the center-left party should merge with either the Meretz or Blue and White ahead of the September poll. It is not clear whether Blue and White would consider such an alliance.
The first surveys issued since new elections were called last week have seen Blue and White polling slightly lower than its current number of Knesset seats at 33-34 seats, though that difference is within the margin of error.
Gantz on Thursday criticized the “cynicism” and “political exploitation” that led to the Knesset disbanding and an unprecedented second vote this year.
“An entire country woke up to a morning of disappointment and disbelief that due to one man’s incompetence and weakness, costly and unnecessary elections have been forced upon it,” Gantz wrote on Facebook, a day after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself in a 74-45 vote and set a new election date for September 17. “Due to one man’s ‘legal fortress’ millions in Israel will have to wait for someone to actually deal with security, education, infrastructure, cost of living.”
Before the Knesset dissolved on Wednesday night, Likud had attempted to bring Blue and White members into the coalition with offers of top ministries, future diplomatic postings and even promised amendments to the so-called Jewish nation-state law.
Members of Gantz’s party who were thought to be potential deserters were offered portfolios including defense, finance, justice, culture, and communications, Channel 13 reported Wednesday evening. Some were said to have been offered future appointments as ambassadors in exchange for joining the coalition or supporting it from the outside.
Likud’s overtures were rebuffed.
On Saturday Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi of Likud expressed support for a potential future coalition with Blue and White if the party stops “ruling out” Netanyahu as a potential partner.
Hanegbi said the two parties could form “a unity government with impressive achievements.”
But Likud quickly distanced itself from his comments, saying they “were his own. Likud and the prime minister wish to form a strong right-wing government led by a large Likud and Netanyahu.”