‘He’ll renege’: Gantz meets Abbas, urges him to not back Netanyahu coalition

Blue and White leader, who partnered Netanyahu in short-lived unity government, warns Ra’am leader and Naftali Bennett that the PM just wants to use them, won’t keep promises

Ra'am party leader Mansour Abbas at the party headquarters in Tamra, on election night, March 23, 2021. (Flash90)
Ra'am party leader Mansour Abbas at the party headquarters in Tamra, on election night, March 23, 2021. (Flash90)

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz on Tuesday met with the leader of the Arab Israeli party that has occupied a kingmaker position following the elections, and urged him to only back a coalition that will oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than one that will keep him in power.

Gantz and Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas agreed to hold further discussions on the matter in the coming days, according to Hebrew media reports.

After the meeting Gantz tweeted “a warning” aimed at Abbas and MK Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, who, like Abbas, has not committed to ousting Netanyahu.

“Bibi is using you,” Gantz wrote, using Netanyahu’s nickname. He claimed the prime minister was focused only on preventing the continuation of his corruption trial by gaining control of the judicial system.

As soon as the government is sworn in, “he will renege on all commitments he gave you, he will dismantle every letter in the coalition agreement,” Gantz cautioned.

Benny Gantz speaks at a Blue and White party event on March 23, 2021. Flash90)

Gantz spoke from bitter experience. After the previous elections in April 2020, he entered a unity government with Netanyahu that was supposed to see them rotate the premiership, with the Blue and White leader taking over in November this year. However, the unity government collapsed after failing to pass a state budget in a development widely seen as engineered by Netanyahu to prevent Gantz from becoming prime minister.

Neither the pro- nor anti-Netanyahu blocs have a clear path to forming a majority coalition after the March 23 vote, the fourth national election in two years. However, the prospect of a fifth election has spurred speculation that unlikely bedfellows could come together in an effort to oust Netanyahu or, alternatively, to enable him to retain power.

Abbas, whose Islamist party won four seats in the elections and who has not ruled out an alliance with Netanyahu, has found himself as possibly holding the balance in his hands. But some in Netanyahu’s Likud party and its ally the far-right Religious Zionism party have already said they will refuse to cooperate with Ra’am, citing its anti-Zionist positions. Ra’am has also said it will not cooperate with Religious Zionism.

Earlier Gantz told the Ynet news site he sees both Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid as suitable candidates to form and lead a coalition and that he does not rule out any option that will replace Netanyahu.

Lapid met with Abbas on Sunday, and is scheduled to meet with leaders of the largest Arab Israeli party, the Joint List, later this week.

Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar, who leads the right-wing New Hope party, both declared before the election that they would not back the centrist Lapid as prime minister.

However, Sa’ar may decide to join a government led by Lapid, if he rotates the premiership with Bennett, sources told Kan news on Monday.

While Sa’ar insisted in the run-up to last week’s elections that Lapid would not be prime minister, he later refused to rule out serving in a government led by the Yesh Atid chief. Bennett has pledged not to sit in a government headed in any way by Lapid — solely or via a power-sharing agreement.

Yesh Atid is the largest party in the “change bloc” of factions opposed to Netanyahu, with 17 seats. Fellow anti-Netanyahu party New Hope has six seats, while Yamina, which has not committed to any bloc, has seven.

Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats, making it the largest party, but is still only able to muster 59 seats among its allies, even including Yamina.

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