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Centrist party won 33 of the 120 seats in last parliament

In 1st, election poll predicts Gantz’s Blue and White will fail to enter Knesset

Amid exodus from party, leader tells activists: ‘I know it’s hard to be proud when saying you’re with Benny Gantz’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party is falling apart, and fast. The party, which currently holds 14 parliamentary, was predicted for the first time not to make it into the next Knesset at all, according to a poll published Friday.

The poll, published by the Maariv newspaper, predicted Gantz’s party would receive just 2.6 percent of the national vote — below the 3.25% threshold required to enter the Knesset. Blue and White won 33 seats in March 2020’s election, but it splintered when Gantz joined the coalition, and its Yesh Atid and Telem factions went into the opposition.

Meanwhile, Gantz acknowledged his dire situation in a talk with campaign activists, the Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday, telling them: “I know it’s hard to be proud when saying you’re with Benny Gantz, but regardless I choose to stay on this path.”

“Truth be told, the reality is difficult right now,” Gantz said, following two more lawmakers abandoning the sinking party Thursday, bringing the total to eight.

Blue and White 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 leader, Defense Minister Gantz, insisting on staying on while facing questions over his stewardship and decisions.

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz announces his party will vote to dissolve the Knesset, December 1, 2020. (Elad Malka/Blue and White)

Maariv’s poll had Likud scoring 29 Knesset seats, with Likud rebel Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope scoring 17. Yesh Atid got 14, Yamina got 13, and the predominantly Arab Joint List had 14.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s new The Israelis party, announced this week, was predicted to get eight seats, as did each of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties. Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu got seven and Meretz had five. Blue and White had none.

The survey was conducted online on Thursday by the Panel4All institute, among 531 respondents constituting a representative sample of Israel’s adult population. The margin of error was 4.3%

Due to the disappointing polls, at least two of the remaining Blue and White members are demanding leadership positions in the party, as a condition to staying, Kan reported.

Gantz said he remains “determined and will continue,” despite the polls and lawmaker exits from the party.

Separately, in an interview published Friday with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Gantz said he felt like Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn stabbed him in the back by joining Huldai’s party.

Gantz said he had told Nissenkorn: “I cannot tell you I don’t feel the stab in the back and the twist of the blade, but I respect your decision.”

Gantz also sent a message to Netanyahu: “You missed the opportunity of your life to step down from the public arena with dignity, with an honest partner. There will be no more opportunity. Israeli citizens deserve better.”

Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay and MK Ram Shefa on Thursday announced they were leaving Blue and White, becoming the seventh and eighth lawmakers to exit.

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

Blue and White’s number two, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, announced Wednesday he was leaving the party, and politics. On Tuesday, number three on the list, Nissenkorn, bolted Blue and White for Huldai’s new party, as well as MK Einav Kabla and MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who said Tuesday she would not run as a candidate for Blue and White in the elections.

In addition to the six lawmakers who left of their own accord, on Sunday, Gantz informed MKs Asaf Zamir and Miki Haimovich that they will not be included on the party’s electoral slate due to their decision to vote against extending the state budget deadline last week, ultimately causing the fall of the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz reached an agreement that was supposed to see Gantz replace Netanyahu as prime minister in November 2021, but a loophole in the agreement 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.

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