Gantz welcomes Arab Joint List support for premiership

Addressing Arab voters on TV, Gantz reminded viewers that the Joint List supported his candidacy to be prime minister in previous elections and he was “happy about that.” 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, head of the newly cobbled together National Unity party, would welcome the support of the Arab Joint List faction if he wins big on election night November 1, Israel National News reported Wednesday, citing the Israeli-Arab Halla TV station.

The comment came in answer to his interviewer’s specific question about the Arab party, when Gantz noted, “I would be happy to see as many people as possible recommend [me] to the president, if and when it is relevant. I am offering the State of Israel something that is above petty politics.”

Gantz reminded the viewers that the Joint List had supported his candidacy to be prime minister before, and he was “happy about that” as well.

Three of the four parties that made up the Joint List backed Gantz to try and form a coalition in September 2019, after the second of four rounds of stalemated elections. Then, after the third try in March 2020, the entire List recommended him to President Ruby Rivlin.

This was despite his having said a month earlier that “the Joint List will not be part of the government I form. My disagreements with its leadership on national and security issues are deep, difficult and unbridgeable.”

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The parties of the Joint List run the left-wing gamut from fully supporting the Palestinian Authority’s demand for a state based on the 1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, to endorsing the idea of turning Israel into a binational “state of all its citizens.” They have long turned a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism, while harshly condemning Israeli counterstrikes that create deterrence and protect its citizens, Arabs and Jews alike.

The Arab party indeed stayed in the Opposition when Gantz led his Blue and White faction into a short-lived national unity government with Likud two months later, in May 2020, due to the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After the last round of elections in May 2021, the party refrained from endorsing anyone. Ra’am, which had broken away from the combined list, didn’t recommend anyone either, but eventually joined the wide coalition built by Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, which led Israel for a year before falling, leading to the upcoming November elections.

Lapid, who became prime minister in June after Naftali Bennett resigned, ruled out any coalition with the support of the Joint List when campaigning last month, saying that Israel needed a government “without extremists on both sides.”

“We can and need to give them [the Arab-Israeli minority] civil freedom,” he said at a Center for Liberal Democracy conference. “On the other hand, we will not give them national freedom, since this is the Jews’ only country and we do not have any intention to give up on Israel’s Jewish character.”

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Channel 12 then reported that the Joint List may retaliate by recommending that Gantz be given the chance to form a coalition after the elections, instead of Lapid.

As of now, the polling numbers show that Israel is again headed for a stalemate, with the right-wing partnership teetering on the edge of having a majority, depending on which parties to the right of the Likud manage to pass the electoral threshold.