MK defects from Lapid: ‘Gantz doing the right thing’

MK Tamano-Shata, formerly of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, defects to Gantz’s Israeli Resilience party to join unity government.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata announced Sunday that she intends to defect from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party to join Benny Gantz’s Israeli Resistance party.

She will become part of the unity government now being formed and which will be headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tamano-Shata spoke with Lapid about her decision. Lapid said that while he would not try to stop her, only the regulating committee can approve actions such as splits.

“I believe that in this complex period – due to the coronavirus crisis, the political stalemate and the rifts within Israeli society – the best thing for the public is a unity government that will function optimally, in the face of the challenges that lie ahead,” Tamano-Shata said in a statement.

“I would like to thank MK Yair Lapid wholeheartedly for the years of work together, all Knesset members of Yesh Atid, the party activists and all the amazing people I have met over the years.”

In recent days, MK Tamano-Shatta has criticized Lapid, saying that he was hindering the negotiations to form a unity government. She said that in the current circumstances, the Blue and White party should have entered a Netanyahu-headed unity government.

“It is a grave mistake on Lapid’s part not to join a unity government. This is what the people want,” Tamano-Shatta said in closed-door party talks, adding, “I think Gantz is doing the right thing.”

MKs Yoaz Handel and Zvika Hauser from the Telem party led by Moshe Ya’alon, another faction of Blue and White, also wish to split and join the coalition, reports say. It’s unknown if they would join as independents or as members of Gantz’s party.

If the three MKs succeed in joining the coalition, Gantz’s party will have 18 seats, instead of the 15 it currently has.

Druze MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh of the Israeli Resilience party, who was against joining the unity government, said she is staying with Gantz for the time being.

She said she was waiting for answers to demands she presented to Gantz, such as amending the Nation-State Law and repealing the Kaminitz Law, which increased penalties for unapproved construction. The law particularly affected the Arab sector, which ignores zoning rules.

On Sunday morning, officials from Likud and Israeli Resilience announced that during an overnight meeting on Saturday, Gantz and Netanyahu had “made significant progress and reached understandings” on the way to forming a government.

According to the statement by the parties, another meeting will be held on Sunday with the aim of reaching a final agreement. Netanyahu and Gantz said they intend to “form a government to deal with the coronavirus crisis and the additional challenges facing the State of Israel.”

Party officials said at least one more meeting would be needed before the unity government is formed. The parties still need to finalize the division of offices.