Gantz elected Knesset Speaker as he heads into unity government

Gantz noted the corona crisis as one of the reasons a “national emergency government” was needed.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was elected by an overwhelming majority of 74 Knesset members to the position of Speaker of the Knesset on Thursday afternoon.

Gantz is expected to hold the speaker position for a short time only. Rumors swirl that Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who only just left the position, will return to the role. The portfolio of Foreign Minister has been floated for Gantz.

Events on Thursday left Gantz’s political partners stunned as he turned his back on them to join with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a unity government.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said from the Knesset podium, “We’re standing here in shock trying to comprehend the depth of the deception… the disaster you’re inflicting on millions of voters [who supported] the left-democratic bloc… who wanted an alternative,” to Netanyahu.

Gantz had promised time after time during the election campaign that he wouldn’t join with Netanyahu, who faces indictment on corruption charges.

Instead, his partners and those voters for whom ousting Netanyahu was their top concern were treated to the sight of Gantz riding into the Knesset speaker position on a wave of right-wing votes.

In his first speech in the position, he said “democracy has won” and promised,“We will regulate its system of checks and balances, stop the unbridled attacks from irresponsible ministers, remove ideas of replacing the court and the prosecution, and work to end the rifts between us.”

“I promise to all Israelis to do the right thing at this time. The Knesset will work for the people and citizens — all of them,” he said.

Gantz cited the corona pandemic as one of his reasons for heading toward unity, saying the time of crisis called for a “national emergency government.”

“These are not ordinary days and require extraordinary decisions,” he said, referring to the health crisis.

“But don’t be mistaken — I would never compromise on the principles for which more than one million citizens voted,” he said. “Netanyahu knows this well and we have proven it well in recent days. I proved myself and we all proved we will never compromise on democracy.”

Gantz and his party repeatedly referred to Netanyahu as a threat to democracy during the campaign. They argued that in his fight against corruption charges he was undermining faith in Israeli institutions, such as the State Prosecutor’s Office and the court system.

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Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya’alon of the Telem party, the two other members of the Blue and White faction, formally requested that they split from Gantz’s Israel Resilience party. They intend to keep the name Blue and White for their two parties.