Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz on Thursday kicked off his new election campaign seeking to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticizing the “cynicism” and “political exploitation” that led to the Knesset disbanding and a second vote this year.
“An entire country woke up to a morning of disappointment and disbelief that due to one man’s incompetence and weakness, costly and unnecessary elections have been forced on it,” Gantz wrote on Facebook, a day after the Knesset voted to dissolve itself in a 74-45 vote and set a new election date for September 17. “Due to one man’s ‘legal fortress’ millions in Israel will have to wait for someone to actually deal with security, education, infrastructure, cost of living.”
“What will Bibi tell Israel? Dear state, it’s not you, it’s me?” he added, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
The Knesset disbanding on Wednesday comes just a month after it was sworn in and sets the stage for a second election in the same year — a first in Israeli history.
The new election gives the anti-Netanyahu forces in Israel led by Gantz another shot at toppling the longtime leader.
“Israel, its institutions and its citizens deserve to be above everything else,” Gantz said, reviving his party’s campaign slogan from the previous elections. “A few months ago… we made a big and significant achievement: We created a leadership alternative. Now, due to cynicism and political exploitation at the expense of Israeli society, we begin our journey again.”
“Just like back then, today I declare humbly and determinedly that together with my friends I shall continue doing everything so that Blue and White wins,” he concluded. “We must, can and will do things differently.”
Blue and White co-leaders Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi this week said Gantz would remain party chairman in the September elections. However, the Haaretz daily quoted several unnamed senior party members Thursday as saying Blue and White should weigh giving up an agreement from the last election according to which Gantz and Lapid will take turns as premier should the party win.
The sources said that move was needed to enable the party to conceivably build a future coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which have announced they won’t join a Blue and White government because of Lapid, who they perceive as anti-Haredi.
Moshe Ya’alon, the party’s No. 3, on Thursday told the Kan public radio that recent events require “rethinking” regarding the ultra-Orthodox. Haaretz said that view is shared by many in the party.
Gantz would be hard-pressed to form a coalition without the ultra-Orthodox parties, since the Arab Israeli parties have never been part of the coalition and together with left-wing parties Labor and Meretz the party can currently only muster the support of 45 lawmakers — far short of the necessary 61.
Before the Knesset dissolved on Wednesday night, Likud had attempted to bring Blue and White members into the coalition with offers of top ministries, future diplomatic postings and even promised amendments to the so-called Jewish nation-state law.
Members of Benny Gantz’s party who were thought to be potential deserters were offered portfolios including defense, finance, justice, culture, and communications, Channel 13 reported Wednesday evening. Some were said to have been offered future appointments as ambassadors in exchange for joining the coalition or supporting it from the outside.
Likud’s overtures were rebuffed.