Gantz again calls for center-left unity, says he won’t quit

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is pressing ahead with his attempts to merge with other centrist parties, a day after his advances were rejected.

In an interview with Channel 13, Gantz says the center-left needs a “critical mass” to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud from power. He again apologizes to his former ally Yair Lapid for saying he “hates people” and rules out dropping out of the race.

He claims Blue and White, which polls have shown hovering just above the electoral threshold, is “a stable and growing party with a strong base” and says “there’s no reason I would quit” before the March elections.

Sources in Yesh Atid tell the station that Gantz is “engaged in PR stunts.”

“If he really wants to talk about unity, he knows how to call Yair, he has the secret code to his cellphone,” the source says.

Yair Lapid (left) and Benny Gantz speak to supporters in Tel Aviv, on February 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Gantz, who entered politics two years ago vowing to replace Netanyahu, merged his nascent Israel Resilience party with Yesh Atid to form Blue and White under his leadership, and narrowly failed in three elections to form a coalition without Netanyahu’s Likud. While he campaigned on the promise that he would not serve in a government with Netanyahu so long as the prime minister faces corruption charges, Gantz agreed to do just that in late March, and formed a unity government with Netanyahu in May.

Furious, Yesh Atid and a second minor faction (Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem) broke away from Blue and White and went into the opposition. Blue and White has watched its popularity plummet since, leading to a hemorrhaging of lawmakers who have left the party since elections were called last month.

On Monday, Gantz pleaded for an alliance of all who oppose the premier in order to boot him from office.

He urged Lapid, Ron Huldai (The Israelis), Ya’alon, Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Itzik Shmuli (Labor), and Yaron Zelekha (New Economic Party) to come to a meeting in order to “search for and find the way.”

Responding to the Monday announcement, Yesh Atid said it would “make every effort to form alliances that will lead to a sane, liberal government that will change the country.”

Lapid has in the past said he would be open to a possible union with Gantz once more, but only if he himself leads the slate.