Gantz’s National Unity presents unlikely alternative coalition in campaign ad

Center-right party envisages partnership between parties that are unwilling to sit with each other, claims defense minister is only person that can form government

Head of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz speaks at the launch of the National Unity party campaign for the upcoming elections in Tel Aviv, September 6, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Head of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz speaks at the launch of the National Unity party campaign for the upcoming elections in Tel Aviv, September 6, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A new campaign push by Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity party dubiously claimed on Wednesday that it was the only faction running in the upcoming election that will be able to form a governing coalition.

National Unity, an alliance between Gantz’s Blue and White and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope, insists that Prime Minister Yair Lapid does not have the ability to amass the 61 seats in the Knesset required to form a government.

In the ad, the center-right party asserts that it can form a coalition of 71 mandates — based on a Channel 12 news poll — alongside Meretz, Labor, Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid, Ra’am, Shas and United Torah Judaism, thereby avoiding the “November nightmare” of continued political deadlock and the return of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to the premiership.

The election scheduled for November 1 is the fifth vote since 2019, called after the previous government — also based on a partnership of a diverse range of parties —  collapsed earlier in the year under the weight of defections and deepening ideological cracks.

The bold plan to forge another complicated partnership with an ideologically diverse range of parties presents several difficulties which make National Unity’s proposal highly improbable.

Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman has sworn repeatedly in the past that he would never again sit with ultra-Orthodox parties in a government, and said earlier this month that there was “no need” to include the Islamist Ra’am, preferring to form a “Zionist coalition.”

It is also unlikely that Lapid’s Yesh Atid and the Haredi factions — who have sat on opposite sides of religion and state issues ever since the centrist party entered the Knesset in 2013 — would be able to agree on policy compromises that would allow them to coexist together in a coalition.

Ra’am made history as the first Arab party to join a governing coalition last year. However, some view it as an unreliable partner, particularly after MK Mazen Ghanaim broke with the coalition on certain laws.

And though the ad cites UTJ lawmaker Uri Maklev’s remarks in June that the party would agree to sit under Gantz if Netanyahu does not succeed to form a coalition, the Haredi party’s leader, Moshe Gafni, has since insisted that he is loyal to the former prime minister and would be sticking with him.

National Unity’s plan is also based on a single TV opinion poll, when polls can be inaccurate and unreliable, six weeks ahead of the vote.

Surveys in recent weeks have generally predicted that neither the parties loyal to Netanyahu nor factions opposing the return of the former prime minister will be able to form a coalition — although some have shown the Netanyahu bloc heading for 60-61 seats.

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