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Sa’ar breaks from Gantz, demands to join War Cabinet

The Knesset House Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss Minister Gideon Sa'ar's appeal to restore the New Hope Party.

Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a faction meeting of the National Unity Party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 6, 2022. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a faction meeting of the National Unity Party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 6, 2022. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

Israeli Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced an end to his political partnership with Benny Gantz on Tuesday night, five months after their National Unity Party joined the country’s wartime government.

“I respect my friends, the representatives of National Unity in the War Cabinet, but unfortunately, they do not express in it the voice, positions and emphases I would bring there,” Sa’ar stated at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

By “friends” he meant Gantz and fellow member Gadi Eizenkot.

“I express here our demand to join the War Cabinet and be part of the influence on policy,” he added.

Sa’ar revealed that he filed a request to the Knesset House Committee to revive the New Hope Party, which he led before the merger with Gantz’s Blue and White Party ahead of the 2022 election.

Sa’ar will be joined by lawmakers Yifat Shasha-Biton, Ze’ev Elkin and Sharren Haskel, who joined the National Unity Party alongside him, according to Ynet.

The Israeli outlet reported that the House Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss Sa’ar’s appeal to restore the New Hope Party. The new faction vowed to “clearly express the national and statesmanlike worldview.”

Apparently responding to Sa’ar’s decision, Gantz wrote on social media in Hebrew: “Thank you and good luck.” Gantz reportedly learned about the split through social media.

Tensions between the two have soared in recent months, as Sa’ar has sought to return to the right-wing camp while Gantz has stuck to his left-wing principles, according to Hebrew press reports.

Once a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, Sa’ar launched New Hope in 2020, ahead of Israel’s fourth of five election rounds between 2019 and 2022. He then served as justice minister in the government led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett.

In the November 2022 election, the shared Gantz and Sa’ar slate received 432,482 votes, resulting in 12 Knesset seats.

Days after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, Gantz agreed to a unity government with Netanyahu. The agreement established a War Cabinet consisting of Netanyahu, Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Eizenkot were named observers. Sa’ar was sworn in as a minister but was left out of the War Cabinet.

Sources close to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir told local media on Tuesday night that if Netanyahu acquiesces to Sa’ar’s request to join the War Cabinet, the Otzma Yehudit party leader would also demand a spot.

“We must change the concept of the War Cabinet and bring about victory,” the sources said.

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