Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Wednesday that his National Unity Party would be joining the opposition, tacitly conceding Tuesday’s election to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
With more than 4.1 million votes officially counted, or nearly 86% of the total ballots cast, Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc appeared primed for a decisive victory. Gantz, who played a key role over the past year in the Bennett-Lapid government, has ruled out the possibility of sitting in a coalition led by the former premier.
“We have decided to continue to try and establish the National Unity camp as a major organization at the center of the political map,” said Gantz in a joint statement with Justice Minister Gideon Saar and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, numbers two and three on the National Union list, respectively.
“We accept the decision of the voters and after the establishment of the government we will remain a responsible opposition,” the statement added.
The announcement comes amid speculation that Netanyahu could try to bring National Unity into his government in a bid to lessen the influence of the Religious Zionism Party led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Gantz sat in a Netanyahu-led government following the March 2020 elections for the 23rd Knesset. At the time, Gantz, who at the time was the leader of the Blue and White political alliance, reached an agreement with Netanyahu under which the premiership would rotate between them.
However, their government collapsed, with some accusing Netanyahu of not honoring the deal, before Gantz was slated to become prime minister.