(September 23, 2019 / JNS) The Joint Arab List clarified on Monday that while the bloc is backing Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz to create the next Israeli government coalition, one faction, the Balad Party, will not participate.
Reports Sunday following the Joint List’s meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin heralded the bloc’s decision to back Gantz as “historic” and tallied Gantz’s coalition seats at 57, all but guaranteeing Rivlin would task him with forming a government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc comprises 55 seats.
However, in a letter submitted to Rivlin on Monday by Joint List leader Ahmad Tibi, the group appeared to backtrack.
“President Rivlin, I would like to inform you that the three Balad MKs have asked me, as the chairman of the faction, to clarify that the Joint List backing of Benny Gantz does not include them,” the letter said. “Therefore, the recommendation is on behalf of 10 MKs … and not 13.”
Balad Party head MK Jamal Zahalka was not present at Sunday’s meeting with Rivlin.
In a statement on Sunday, Balad said it would not support “General Benny Gantz” because of his “Zionist ideology, his right-wing positions that are not much different to Likud’s, and his bloody and aggressive military history.”
Though Rivlin will reportedly have to check the legality of the vote split, the clarification reduces Gantz’s seats to 54, one less than the 55 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can muster.
Prior to the Joint List’s endorsement of Gantz, it presented Blue and White with a list of demands in exchange for its support, including the reversal of the nation-state law enshrining Israel’s Jewish character in the country’s law, an end to the destruction of illegal building in small Arab towns and a return to final-status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Blue and White confirmed that it had received the list, but said it had not committed to fulfill it.
Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party has also withheld its support for a prime ministerial candidate on Sunday, citing the willingness of both the Likud and Blue and White to sit in a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties.
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