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Gantz reportedly considering alliance with Bennett’s hard-right Yamina party

Defense minister said prepared to put his party on joint ticket with national religious faction if it drops far-right MK Smotrich; Blue and White calls TV report ‘false’

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett (right) and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party. (composite image: Flash90)
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett (right) and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party. (composite image: Flash90)

Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz is considering joining his faction with Naftali Bennett’s national-religious Yamina party to form an alliance for the coming March elections, according to a Channel 12 report Monday evening.

The report drew cries of false news from Blue and White, scorn from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and a cryptic response from Yamina that didn’t reject the notion.

Gantz’s centrist party has been hemorrhaging member lawmakers ever since the Knesset dissolved and new elections were called near the end of last month. A recent poll predicted the party would not even muster enough votes in the election to enter the Knesset.

Bennett, who last month said he was aiming to become prime minister, has not ruled out aligning with Gantz, the report said, noting that Bennett is caught in an internal party spat with MK Bezalel Smotrich and his far-right National Union faction.

Gantz has conditioned joining with Yamina on Smotrich not being on the combined parties’ slate, as he is seen by Blue and White as being too extreme in his positions, the unsourced report said.

In addition to bringing top-notch security credentials to Yamina, Gantz, the defense minister and former IDF chief of staff, would also carry some NIS 20 million in party funding, according to the report.

Bennett prefers to patch things up with Smotrich, a fellow religious-Zionist, however, Channel 12 said.

Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks during a Knesset plenum session in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Pool/Flash90)

Former justice minister Avi Nissenkorn, who quit Blue and White and his cabinet post last week, said Gantz told him he was considering a joint run with Yamina in the election.

The conversation took place days before Nissenkorn split from Gantz’s party to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s new faction, The Israelis, Nissenkorn said. Gantz demanded Nissenkorn resign from his cabinet post and now serves as justice minister himself.

There are 78 days to go until the March 23 elections, and just a month until parties must finalize their tickets for the vote.

Earlier Monday, Bennett signed a surplus vote-sharing agreement with Gideon Sa’ar, a lawmaker who split from Likud to set up his own New Hope party to directly challenge Netanyahu for the premiership. According to Channel 12, the deal was signed without Smotrich knowing about it.

Blue and White tweeted that the report Gantz was considering a joint run with Bennett was “false.”

“Stop lying,” the party wrote. “It would be better if politicians concentrated on responsible management of the country and not on spin,” it added, apparently suggesting that the notion of an alliance was being pushed as a political maneuver by rivals.

A statement on behalf of Bennett, however, did not reject the report, saying, “Politicians also look for leadership that can be relied on. The connections made will be published at the appropriate time.”

Netanyahu’s Likud party also responded to the report, tweeting, “At a time when Gideon and Bennett don’t have a government without the left, only the Likud can set up a fully right-wing government.”

In a response to Likud, Yamina tweeted an image showing Netanyahu and center-left former prime minister Ehud Barak, who was a defense minister under Netanyahu.

Bennett, Gantz, and Sa’ar have all declared that they want to oust Netanyahu from power in the coming elections.

New elections, the fourth since April 2019, were called last month after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.

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