Gantz: I was wrong to shake Netanyahu’s hand, parties that oppose him must unite

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, in a January 11, 2021 speech, says he was wrong to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Channel 12 screenshot)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, in a January 11, 2021 speech, says he was wrong to partner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Channel 12 screenshot)

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz says he “was wrong” to shake Benjamin Netanyahu’s hand and enter into his coalition, but pleads for an alliance of all who oppose the premier, in order to boot him from office.

“Three times, we were close to ensuring that he’d end [his job],” Gantz says at a press conference. But when the coronavirus ravaged Israeli earlier this year, “I, a soldier of the State of Israel, stood forward. I shook the hand of this man I had promised to replace. I shook the hand of a serial promise-breaker. I shook it because Israel was at war and I am first and foremost its soldier.

“I was wrong,” he says. “You who believed in me were disappointed.”

“And while tens of thousands of businesses collapsed and the population suffered under the strains and restrictions of the pandemic, he says, Netanyahu continued “to incite and divide, simply because it serves his personal interests, and to allow him to escape the courthouse… He deceived me, he deceived you, he deceived one too many times. Now he must pay.”

Gantz has been asked many times in the days since the coalition collapsed late last month whether he was wrong to enter a coalition with Netanyahu in May, abandoning his three-election pledge to Blue and White voters not to do so. This speech marks the first time he has publicly declared that he made a mistake.

Gantz now calls for an alliance of multiple parties that oppose Netanyahu’s continued rule, and implies that he does not assume he would head such an alliance.

He urges Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Ron Huldai (The Israelis), Moshe Ya’alon (Telem), 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.”

“This is an hour of emergency. We cannot let [Netanyahu] smash us into slivers of parties,” he says.

“I call on all those for whom Israel is important, on all those who will not go with Bibi, to let go of their egos,” he says, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “Let’s go into a room tomorrow, and find solutions. We will unite for the good of the country, without ego and past grievances. I am willing to sacrifice much for Bibi to go. If we get rid of our egos, we’ll get rid of Bibi.”

According to Channel 12 News, Lapid, whose Yesh Atid is projected to be the largest of those parties (at around 15 seats), is unlikely to agree to such an alliance, nor would Meretz.

Blue and White won 33 seats in the March 2020 elections, but its Yesh Atid and Telem components broke away and went into the opposition after Gantz agreed to partner Netanyahu. His Blue and White is now polling at 4-5 seats, barely enough to clear the threshold for seats in the Knesset in the scheduled March 23, 2021 elections.

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