Gantz forges ahead in negotiations with Arab List despite pushback

Despite opposition from within his own party, Blue and White’s chairman continues to deal with the Arab faction. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz continues to give his blessing to negotiations with the Arab faction, the Joint List, despite disagreement within his own party and his larger coalition.

On Wednesday, Blue and White MKs Avi Nissenkorn and Ofer Shelah, two of the more left-wing members of the party, met with representatives of the Joint List, Israel Hayom reports.

The two heard the Arab demands in exchange for their support. Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, reports that the Arab-Israeli MKs presented social issues at this meeting, saving more provocative, Palestinian nationalist-related demands for a later stage.

On Tuesday, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh listed some of them, including an end to Jewish visits on the Temple Mount and no unilateral steps in connection to the Trump administration’s peace plan.

The Joint List, which includes 14 Arab MKs and one Jewish, supports positions that if implemented would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. The party says Israel should be a “state of all its citizens.”

Blue and White’s willingness to negotiate with the Joint List has sparked outrage on Israel’s Right with Netanyahu blasting the move.

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Complicating Gantz’s efforts are the opposition of two of the more right-wing members of Blue and White, Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel.

Orly Levy-Abekasis, head of the Gesher party, who ran together with Labor and Meretz in the last election, has also come out forcefully against the negotiations, calling them “shameful.” She said she would not vote in favor.

On Monday, Blue and White officials told Israel’s Channel 12 that renegades would be kicked out of the party and forced to resign from the Knesset if they refused to back a ‘minority government.’

It is unclear how this could happen, as once MKs are elected, they do not have to resign if they decide to break from their party.

Gantz’s purpose in negotiating with the Arab party is to obtain the backing of 61 Knesset members who will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that he, and not Netanyahu, be tasked with forming a government.