(February 21, 2019 / JNS) The new united centrist party headed by Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Israel Resilience’s Benny Gantz will be called the Blue and White Party, announced the leaders on Thursday.
The new alliance, which seeks to be an alternative to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the upcoming April 9 elections, has sent shockwaves throughout the Israeli political scene ahead of the deadline on Thursday for political parties to register their lists for the election.
The new party also revealed its party list, with the top 10 slots belonging to: Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi, Avi Nissenkorn, Meir Cohen, Miki Haimovich, Ofer Shelah, Yoaz Hendel and Orna Barbivai.
Gabi Ashkenazi is a former Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff, who agreed to join the united list in the fourth spot in order to further bolster the party’s centrist appeal and security credentials.
Under the arrangement for the new party, if it is able to secure a governing coalition, Gantz will serve as prime minister until November 2021, with Ya’alon serving as defense minister and Lapid as foreign minister, then afterwards Lapid will become prime minister with Gantz serving as defense minister.
“Out of national responsibility, Gantz, Lapid and Ya’alon decided to form a united list that will be Israel’s new ruling party,” said Gantz and Lapid in a statement. “The new ruling party will bring forth a cadre of security and social leaders to ensure Israel’s security, and to reconnect its people and heal the divide within Israeli society.”
Despite the new party, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who headed centrist Kadima Party, said that the Lapid-Gantz merger could actually benefit Netanyahu.
“I have no doubt that it not only meets the expectations of the prime minister, but also his wishes. He wanted this to be a war between two blocs,” Olmert said at the Conference of Presidents summit held this week in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, reported rumors that Netanyahu was courting the center-right Kulanu Party to either join Likud or Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu Party, in response to the centrist merger, seem to have broken down, with Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon saying that his party will run on its own ticket.
“We have learned in recent months that everyone has a price for work arrangements. Kahlon has no price,” said a party spokesman in a statement.
The announcement on Thursday morning came less than a day after the Jewish Home and National Union parties announced that they would engage in a Netanyahu-brokered technical vote-sharing bloc with the staunch-right Otzma Yehudit Party in exchange for the education and housing ministries and two seats in the security cabinet.