Blue and White said to oppose dividing Jerusalem, evacuating settlement blocs
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Blue and White said to oppose dividing Jerusalem, evacuating settlement blocs

Gantz-led centrist alliance’s diplomatic platform will reportedly express willingness to enter peace talks, but its positions likely to be rejected by Palestinians

From left to right: Blue and White party leaders Moshe Ya'alon, Benny Gantz , Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi pose for a picture after announcing their new electoral alliance in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
From left to right: Blue and White party leaders Moshe Ya'alon, Benny Gantz , Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi pose for a picture after announcing their new electoral alliance in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Blue and White party will oppose the division of Jerusalem as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians and will call for Israel to maintain sovereignty over West Bank settlement blocs, according to an Israeli television report on Sunday.

Blue and White, which was formed last month in a merger between former military chief Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience and centrist leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, has been largely mum on policy specifics ahead of the scheduled release of its campaign platform on Tuesday.

While Yesh Atid had already released a detailed 200-page manifesto before the merger was agreed last month, Israel Resilience declined to publish any clear policy proposals on either domestic, security or diplomatic issues.

The united party platform, however, will address all major areas of policy, a spokesperson for the party told The Times of Israel.

According to Channel 13 news, the party’s diplomatic program will include support for a “united” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, continued Israeli control over the Jordan Valley, and retaining settlement blocs in the West Bank, along with a willingness to enter negotiations with the Palestinians.

Elements of Blue and White’s reported plan mirrored those advocated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the historically dovish Labor Party.

Despite the apparent similarity to the positions of other parties, such a platform would likely be rejected by the Palestinian Authority, which calls for a state based on the 1967 lines with a capital in East Jerusalem.

Illustrative. The construction of new houses in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, on September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

While Gantz has signaled his willingness to engage in peace talks, he has provided few specifics on his vision for an agreement with the Palestinians and conflicting messages from party members have led to some confusion over what positions Blue and White will advocate.

The Channel 13 report said Blue and White’s platform will also include a call to insert a clause on equality into the politically contentious nation-state law, though it was unclear if that would mean amending the current legislation or the proposal of a new bill.

In his first comments after entering politics, Gantz said he would “fix” the law, though he later qualified his remarks in an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

The nation-state law enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines Israel’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze minority, whose members — many of whom serve in the Israeli army — say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens.

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz seen with members of the Druze community and activists outside his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, during a protest against the nation-state law, January 14, 2019. (Flash90)

At an event last month, Lapid promised to change the nation-state law passed by the current government.

“We will fix the nation-state law to add the civil equality clause,” Lapid said, indicating that it will also be his party’s position — despite the fact that Zvi Hauser, one of the authors of the law, is a member of Blue and White, and No. 14 on its Knesset slate.

Hauser — a former Netanyahu chief of staff — in the past dismissed criticism of the failure to mention equality in the nation-state law, telling the Israel National News website in October that equality did not have to be mentioned, since it is already enshrined in other laws and is a fundamental value in the Israeli justice system.

Blue and White is currently polling as the largest party, though surveys indicate it may still struggle to form a ruling coalition after elections.

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