'He thinks he will go further. I doubt it'

Gantz calls Nissenkorn a backstabber, PM untrustworthy, as Blue and White flails

Party leader slams the former justice minister who accused him of agreeing to undermine democracy to save coalition; says his trust in coalition partner Netanyahu was unjustified

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and then Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn visit the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and then Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn visit the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The war of words between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and former justice minister Avi Nissenkorn continued on Friday with the Blue and White leader saying his erstwhile ally stabbed him in the back.

When asked about the departure of seven lawmakers from his crumbling party in recent days, Gantz said, “I see it as a disappointment, in some cases I see it as stabbing a knife in the back.”

In the Channel 12 interview, Gantz was then asked to confirm he was referring to Nissenkorn, who on Friday, days after quitting the Blue and White party and his cabinet post, accused the defense minister of conspiring against him with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I said yes. And it was I who brought him in, got him to join, consulted with him, worked with him as a partner, got his opinion 99% of the time, and eventually he found himself some other platform with which he thinks he will go further. I doubt it,” Gantz said.

Blue and White, which has 14 MKs in the outgoing coalition, has seen an exodus of lawmakers since the Knesset dissolved last week over the failure to pass a new budget, with the party flailing in the polls and Gantz facing questions over his captaincy.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, December 29, 2020. (Screenshot: YouTube)

Among them is Nissenkorn, who has joined Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s new party, The Israelis, and will run for the Knesset on that platform in the next election.

Nissenkorn heavily criticized Gantz on Friday, accusing him of managing talks behind his back with Netanyahu that would “severely harm the rule of law” and void the justice minister’s powers.

Nissenkorn laid into Gantz’s recent conduct as the latter attempted to salvage the coalition with Netanyahu — an effort that ultimately failed, with the government collapsing and new elections being called for March.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Alternate PM and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, both wearing protective mask due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

In further comments during the Friday interview, Gantz described Netanyahu as “very complex.”

“I think Netanyahu does not justify the trust I placed in him and those who said he should not be believed were justified,” Gantz said.

Gantz also attacked his former political partner, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.

“Yair Lapid unfortunately hates people,” Gantz said.

Yesh Atid responded by “wishing Benny Gantz success in his future endeavors.”

Then-Blue and White party leaders Benny Gantz, right, and Yair Lapid at a faction meeting at the opening of the 22nd Knesset, in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu and Gantz reached a coalition agreement last year that was supposed to see Gantz replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November, but a loophole in the deal saw the coalition collapse due to Netanyahu’s refusal to pass an annual budget.

Israel is consequently now gearing up for its fourth election in two years after the Knesset dissolved last week.

Despite reported calls from within his party to step down, Gantz announced Tuesday night that he will continue to lead the ailing Blue and White, claiming the party “saved the country” and set the course for the end of Netanyahu’s rule.

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