Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz said Wednesday fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip would not dictate the political decisions facing him in coalition talks.
Israel’s targeted killing of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata early Tuesday and the subsequent flareup came as Gantz works to put together a government, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so following elections in September.
“Since entering politics there is no speech that I do not mention unity. I’m going to stick to that. If there is a way to promote unity in the State of Israel, I will be the first to do so. I call for unity all the time and make every effort to form a unity government,” Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, said while touring the south.
Lacking a governing majority with their respective political allies, both Netanyahu and Gantz have been called on to form a unity government of Blue and White and Likud, but are at loggerheads over the makeup of such a coalition and who would head it.
“There are many important things in the State of Israel. There are principles and values, there is law and there are democratic norms. I do not propose to take a specific event and wrap the political question in it. Unity should serve more than a specific event, however serious and difficult it may be,” Gantz said, suggesting he will not agree to a unity government solely on the basis of the Gaza violence.
Gantz also reiterated his support for the strike eliminating Abu al-Ata, which he was updated on beforehand.
“There is consensus on the operational need and I completely back the action of the State of Israel,” he said. “Our goal must be to restore deterrence.”
Political analysts have said the fighting in Gaza raises the chances of a unity government being formed, as the ongoing political deadlock threatens to lead to elections being called for the third time in less than a year.
Coalition negotiations have stalled amid Netanyahu’s conditioning the government on the inclusion of his right-wing and religious political allies, and Gantz’s refusal to serve under a prime minister suspected of criminal wrongdoing. Netanyahu is expected to be indicted in the coming weeks.
Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud have regularly blamed each other for the lack of progress in negotiations and sought to cast the other as responsible if the country is forced to go to third elections.
With the November 20 deadline to form a government just seven days away, and with Netanyahu saying the ensuing operation in Gaza “could take a long time,” Gantz could encounter difficulties in advancing coalition negotiations and reaching agreements with other parties.
A spokesperson for President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday that Rivlin cannot give Gantz extra time to form a government, regardless of the ongoing security situation in Israel’s south.
The security situation, beyond potentially limiting Gantz’s options to form a government, has already delayed his negotiations with potential coalition partners. Amid the ongoing rocket fire, Gantz chose to postpone his Tuesday meeting with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, pushing it off to Thursday.