Gantz’s former partners lash out, say he abandoned the million voters who put him in the Knesset and sold out to “crawl” into a Netanyahu-led government.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Bitter and combative, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday slammed their former political partner, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, for announcing earlier in the day he would join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A few hours after Gantz shocked Israeli politics by agreeing to something he swore on multiple occasions he would never do – sit in a coalition government with Netanyahu as leader – Lapid and Ya’alon accused Gantz of selling out voters and “reward[ing] to criminality.”
“The Corona crisis does not permit or authorize us to abandon [our] values,” Lapid said Thursday evening. “We promised that we would not sit under a prime minister with three indictments [against him]. We promised that we would not sit in a coalition of extortionists and extremists. We said we would not allow Israeli democracy to be harmed.”
“Whoever crawls into such a government will not sell us that he is doing it for the good of the country,” Lapid said, adding there was only one mission facing the country – overcoming the coronavirus epidemic – and his party would work unceasingly from the opposition benches to help Israelis overcome the crisis.
“Benny Gantz decided today to break up Blue and White in order to crawl into the Netanyahu government,” said Lapid, whose Yesh Atid Party agreed to a merger with Gantz a year ago in a bid to force the long-serving Netanyahu from office.
“We ran together because Benny Gantz looked me in the eye and told me he would never sit in such an evil government. And I believed him,” Lapid said, adding that the one million Blue and White voters felt “betrayed” that their votes “were stolen” and handed over as a gift to Netanyahu.
Gantz’s right-hand man, Gabi Ashkenazi, will apparently become defense minister. Ashkenazi was Gantz’s predecessor as head of Israel’s armed forces and said the breakup of the Blue and White Party was necessary for the sake of the country.
“The country is in a time of national crisis, one of the most difficult we have known,” Ashkenazi tweeted. “A difficult crisis requires tough decisions. We are public servants, we have served the public all our lives. We could not oppose this at this point in time. At this moment Israeli citizens need a national emergency government. As always, even today – Israel before all.”
Ya’alon said it was a “a sad evening” for the country, adding that Gantz going back on his word to not serve under Netanyahu was “incomprehensible and disappointing.”
Gantz had said several times that Netanyahu, who was charged last year with breach of trust, fraud and bribery – charges he has categorically denied – could not continue as leader with a court case pending. In a bid to oust Netanyahu, Gantz received support from the 15 members of the Arab Joint List to try to form his own government, another move he publicly stated he would never do.
Early Thursday the Knesset appeared paralyzed by the refusal of the speaker of the house, Yuli Edelstein, to honor a Supreme Court order demanding a vote that would oust him as speaker. Instead, Edelstein resigned and in a surprise move was replaced by Gantz, apparently as part of the process of joining a Netanyahu coalition.
“It is impossible to be partners in the exploitation of the (corona) epidemic,” said Ya’alon another former IDF chief-of-staff who served as Netanyahu’s defense minister before resigning in 2016. “Yair Lapid and I will move forward together as a faction within the opposition and against all these negative phenomena.”
Lapid’s 14-member Yesh Atid faction will join with the five members of Ya’alon’s Telem Party and sit in opposition.
The two parties formally asked the Knesset Thursday to split off from Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party and continue using the Blue and White name, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu needs at least 61 of the 120-member Knesset in his coalition. It is yet unclear which other parties will join.