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Likud minister says door open for Gantz to join coalition

Former Gantz adviser Ronen Tzur calls for opposition parties to join the government.

National Unity Party Chairman Benny Gantz (center) attends a prayer session held by anti-reform activists at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
National Unity Party Chairman Benny Gantz (center) attends a prayer session held by anti-reform activists at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 23, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar on Saturday opened the door for National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz to join Israel’s ruling coalition.

“We want a right-wing coalition, and we know that Benny Gantz really likes being in the opposition because that’s how he gets stronger politically, so we are not an option for him,” Zohar told Channel 13 in an interview. 

“We are not ready to boycott: If Gantz is interested in joining, let him negotiate according to the basic outlines of the government, and let him join,” the Likud Cabinet member continued. 

For his part, Gantz on Sunday shot down any discussion of joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition but said that his faction could provide outside support.

“A unity government is not on the table, but maybe support from the outside,” Gantz told Army Radio. “If Netanyahu brings good things to Israel we’ll back him from outside [the coalition], but won’t join the government.”

National Unity is the third-largest party in the Knesset with 12 seats after fellow opposition party Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid with 24 mandates and the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with 32. The coalition holds a 64-seat majority versus 56 in opposition in the 120-seat parliament.

“At no point did we join a boycott, and anyone who wanted to join this government according to its basic outlines could join in an instant,” Zohar said. “Unfortunately, there were those who chose to boycott, and we are in a situation of a narrow coalition.”

Ronen Tzur, a former advisor to Gantz who briefly served in the Knesset with the Labor Party in 2006, said during an interview with 103FM on Sunday that Gantz and Lapid should join the Netanyahu government.

“I ask myself what the plan is for the coming months, to let them continue to burn the country and go every Saturday night to demonstrate on Kaplan [Street in Tel Aviv against the judicial reform program] and that’s it? Is that the whole purpose of our work?

“I know it would require sacrificing the ego and that it’s a heavy price to pay, but I prefer that they sit at the wheel. Lapid, Gantz, [Labor Party leader Meirav] Michaeli and [Yisrael Beitenu head Avigdor] Liberman are on Netanyahu’s side and will prevent this madness [judicial reform].”

Tzur’s speech at the protest against judicial reform was canceled following his remarks.

Coalition members in recent days have called for unity and reconciliation, including Transport Minister Miri Regev, MK Boaz Bismuth and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, all of Likud. In addition, 100 Likud-affiliated mayors signed a document calling for unity.

At the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Gallant said that the government would respect the Supreme Court’s decision if it accepted a petition calling to cancel the “reasonableness bill” the Knesset passed into law last week.

“Israel is a democratic, law-abiding country. We’ll act according to the law,” Gallant said.

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