Gantz Heads Towards Unity With Netanyahu, Leaving Many Voters 'Betrayed' And 'Disappointed'

© AP Photo / Oded BaliltyPeople walk past an election campaign billboard for the Blue and White party, the opposition party led by Benny Gantz, left, in Ramat Gan, Israel, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party is pictured at right.
People walk past an election campaign billboard for the Blue and White party, the opposition party led by Benny Gantz, left, in Ramat Gan, Israel, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party is pictured at right. - Sputnik International
After weeks of hesitation and zigzagging, Benny Gantz, the head of Israel's second largest party, Blue and White, has decided to split the list into two, dropping those members who rejected the notion of a unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu and thus getting one step closer to the establishment of a coalition with the prime minister.

According to reports, the unity government of two former rivals will include 78 parliamentarians: 58 will belong to the Netanyahu bloc, 17 - to Gantz's Israel Resilience party, and three to Labour.

The agreement between Gantz and Netanyahu, which hasn't been finalised yet, also presupposes that Netanyahu will lead the country till 2021, with Gantz serving as his deputy and as Israel's foreign minister. Once the year is up, they will swap.

Key ministerial jobs have also been divided, Israeli media outlets report. The most prestigious position - that of the defence minister - will go to Gantz's ally, former chief of staff Gabbi Ashkenazi, whereas the finance ministry will remain in the hands of Netanyahu's Likud.

Until unity is officially established, Gantz is set to chair Israel's parliament, the Knesset, replacing Likud's Yuli Edelstein, who has manned the position for the past seven years and who filed his resignation on Wednesday.

Unity as Means to Curb Coronavirus 

Addressing the Knesset on Thursday evening, shortly after the vote that cemented his position as the Speaker of the Parliament, Gantz explained his decision: "These are not ordinary days. All of humanity is facing the challenge of a pandemic that's hitting the shores of the various countries..." he said, referring to COVID-19 that has killed 8 Israelis. Nearly 3,000 other people are still being treated in hospitals across the country.

"These are unusual times and they call for unusual decisions. That’s why I intend to explore the formation of a national emergency government. I will never compromise on the principles underpinning the votes of over a million Israelis who voted for Blue and White".

Masses Feel Betrayed

But not everyone was impressed. Yair Lapid, Gantz's former ally and one of the leaders of the Blue and White party, said he was "disappointed" with the decision "to crawl to the Orthodox right-wing bloc," adding that Gantz had "deceived a million voters" by merging with Netanyahu.

Moshe Yaalon, Israel's former defence minister, who has also chipped away from the Blue and White, backed Lapid's claims, saying the premier was using the pandemic to promote his political agenda.

Gantz's decision hasn't been taken lightly by some elements in the Israeli public either, despite earlier polls that suggested that 40 percent of Israelis supported a unity government of Netanyahu and Gantz.

Activists associated with the country's left-wing circles surrounded the house of Gantz earlier today to protest against his decision, calling him to "wake up" and not sit in a government with the man indicted in a series of graft probes that include buying positive press and receiving illegal gifts from a rich donor.

Others took to the social media that exploded from angry comments.

"What a sad day," wrote one tweep. "...Unbelievable. There was a hope for unity, peace and stability. But Gantz decided to opt for corruption and a chair".
Another Twitter user chimed in: "You betrayed all your voters, shattered the undermining confidence in the political system, crushed the hope for a free government void of corruption...  It is not too late to wake up before you put your signature under the darkest moments in the history of the country.  The mandate is still yours."
"You stole our hope. It's unforgivable."

Gantz Had No Choice

The truth is that Gantz simply didn't have a choice. Forming a narrow government that's reliant on such incompatible partners as the hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party and the often anti-Israel alliance of Arab parties was not an option, especially given the fact that the establishment of such a coalition stirred objections within Gantz's own party.

Going for a 4th round of general polls would have been devastating too. The three rounds of elections have already cost Israel some $2.5 billion and forking out another generous sum from the taxpayers' pockets during a time of economic crisis caused by the raging Coronavirus would not bring any extra points to Gantz.

That's why many welcomed Gantz's move.

"Thank you, Gantz. Thank you for showing our people what real leadership really is. A real leader is gave a fight and at the last minute you realised that at this point the fight is useless. Life comes first..."
"With all the masks that have come down today, the biggest one was that of the media. Look at how much junk has suddenly been thrown at Benny Gantz just because he didn't follow their line of leftist agenda. I would not be surprised if the judicial system will also be mobilised against him".
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