Gantz fires Derech Eretz MKs from their government posts

Blue and White chief to take over as communications minister for Hendel, seeks dismissal of Hauser as committee chair, after the two throw in their lot with Gideon Sa’ar’s party

Then-Blue and White party members MKs Yoaz Hendel, Zvi Hauser seen in the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Then-Blue and White party members MKs Yoaz Hendel, Zvi Hauser seen in the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday announced he was dismissing Derech Eretz lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel from their government posts, after the two said they would join Gideon Sa’ar’s new party and soon resign from their positions if new elections are averted.

“Hauser and Hendel have chosen their new political home and their time holding positions on behalf of Blue and White has thus come to an end,” Gantz said in a statement.

Hendel’s firing as communications minister was effective immediately. Hauser’s removal as head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will take a bit more time, as it demands a vote in the Knesset and the appointment of a replacement.

Gantz’s office said he would take over for Hendel as communications minister.

There was no immediate reaction to the move from Hauser or Hendel.

Yoaz Hendel (L) and Benny Gantz (R) at the Knesset on May 13, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“After Hendel and Hauser announced they would join with Sa’ar they spoke with Gantz, who allowed them to choose the date of their resignation, but since then they’ve made conditions. Gantz has the right to choose his partners,” Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg told Kan public radio.

Hendel and Hauser were originally part of Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem faction of Blue and White. When the alliance broke up earlier this year, with Benny Gantz heading to the coalition and Ya’alon and Yair Lapid to the opposition, the two MKs broke away to form Derech Eretz and joined Gantz’s bloc in the government.

Last week, the two announced they plan to join Sa’ar’s party for the next elections, after he split from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and said he would seek to replace the premier.

MK Gideon Sa’ar announces he is leaving Likud to form his own party, in a televised statement on December 8, 2020. (Screen capture: Facebook)

Sa’ar resigned from the Knesset after announcing his decision, saying it was only right he do so as he was elected for Likud.

Earlier Monday, Hauser and Hendel said they would resign their governmental positions — though not their Knesset seats — in the unlikely case that parliament does not disband in the coming days.

“We will not support any further compromises,” the two said in a statement, referring to a previous deal — proposed by Hauser — that extended the budget deadline from August to December. “We support disbanding the Knesset and returning to the voters in order to replace Netanyahu. If the coalition decides on another extension [of the deadline to pass a budget], we will resign our positions.”

Their statement came after reports said the first Knesset plenum reading of a bill that would dissolve the government and call early elections appeared likely to be pushed off to next week, angering Blue and White, which is pushing the legislation.

The move by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a member of Likud, is not aimed at preventing the dissolution of the parliament. Even without the bill, the Knesset is already on track to dissolve later this month due to an impasse over the state budget, which has long been held up by Likud. Moreover, Netanyahu is widely believed to be planning to dissolve the government anyway before the 2021 budget must be passed in March, in order to prevent a scenario in which, as stipulated by their power-sharing agreement, Gantz will succeed him as prime minister.

Rather, Levin’s move is seen to be aimed at trying to thwart several clauses included in the Blue and White-pushed bill, which has a majority in the Knesset and has already cleared a preliminary plenum vote and been approved by the Knesset House Committee. It needs to pass three more plenum votes.

Blue and White has been demanding that a state budget be passed for 2020 and 2021 together — also as the coalition deal stipulates — in a bid to force Netanyahu to honor the premiership rotation clause. If Likud continues to resist those demands, elections will be triggered on December 23 at the latest and held three months later.

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