Defense Minister Benny Gantz asserted Thursday that he would run in the upcoming March election as the leader of the Blue and White party, while denying holding talks with either Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai or Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on merging with their factions.
“I believe I am doing what’s right for Israel. Therefore, I’ll continue ahead” to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office, he said in a Channel 12 interview.
Recent opinion polls show Blue and White hovering near the electoral threshold. Gantz entered politics two years ago, vowing to replace Netanyahu, merged his nascent Israel Resilience party with Yesh Atid to form Blue and White, and narrowly failed in three elections to form a coalition without Netanyahu’s Likud.
While Gantz campaigned on the promise that he would not sit in a government with Netanyahu so long as the prime minister faces corruption charges, he agreed to do just that in late March, and formed a unity government with Netanyahu in May. Furious, Yesh Atid and a second minor faction (Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem) broke away from Blue and White and went into the opposition. Blue and White has watched its popularity plummet since, leading to a hemorrhaging of lawmakers who have left the party since elections were called last month.
“I acted honestly while others acted fraudulently,” a bitter Gantz said during the Thursday interview. “When I said I would not sit with Netanyahu, the circumstances were different — there was no pandemic and there was no carousel of three lockdowns. I entered this government not because I love Netanyahu but because I love Israel.”
Pressed to explain why it wouldn’t be better for him to bow out of the race, rather than risk wasting votes if he fails to cross the electoral threshold, Gantz declared that the party’s votes “will not be wasted. Blue and White will continue to grow.” He claimed that his party would help decide who the next prime minister of Israel would be.
He went on to dismiss reports that he might merge with Huldai’s HaIsraelim (The Israelis) party to his left or with Bennett’s Yamina to his right, calling the reports “bubbe-meises,” the Yiddish term for fantastical tales.