Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday called on all the parties in the country’s left-wing bloc to unite to “get rid of” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the March 2021 elections.

“This is an emergency,” the Blue and White party leader and alternate prime minister exhorted his camp in a televised prime-time press conference. “There is great danger that the opportunity will pass by if we remain scattered in so many factions,” he said.

“I am calling on everyone who cares about Israel, to everyone who won’t join Bibi [Netanyahu], to forgo his ego and unite … Everyone who really won’t join a government under Bibi. Let’s meet, we’ll find the way forward. We’ll discover what we have in common. Let’s sit down, tomorrow. I am inviting you—8 p.m., we’ll find solutions. I expect all of us to be there,” said Gantz.

“Let’s unite for the good of the country. Without the failures of the past, without fear, without ego. I’m ready to sacrifice a lot, as I’ve already proved, if it means Bibi goes. If we get rid of our egos, we get rid of Bibi. Let’s unite to get rid of Bibi,” he added.

For the first time, Gantz also explicitly stated he had been wrong to break his promise to Blue and White voters by joining a Netanyahu government.

“I was wrong. I shook hands with the man I promised to replace. I shook hands with a serial breaker of promises. I shook it because as a soldier, Israel was at war, and it was my duty. As a real and deadly pandemic threatened us all, Netanyahu continued to divide us and incite because it served his personal interests and helped him avoid the specter of his trial,” said Gantz.

When Israel Hayom asked Gantz if he would support internal primaries to elect a leader of the center-left bloc if some of all of the parties managed to unite, Gantz replied, “We’ll find a way.”

When asked who might be expected to take the No. 2 slot on the Blue and White list, he responded, “The answer will come in a few days.”

Yesh Atid said in response to Gantz’s speech: “We will do everything we can to create partnerships that will lead to a sane, liberal government that will change the country.”

Netanyahu’s Likud party was dismissive, saying, “While politicians are busy with politics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought millions of vaccines to the people of Israel and is leading Israel toward being the first country in the world to come out of the COVID crisis, reopen its economy, and get back to living its life.”

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said in response to Gantz’s appeal that “we already had a chance to get rid of Bibi, but you [Gantz] avoided becoming a ‘reserve’ prime minister. The only thing you can do now for the country is announce that you aren’t running in the next Knesset election.”

Telem party leader and former senior Blue and White alliance figure Moshe Ya’alon said after Gantz’s speech that “Israel is in one of its darkest hours in terms of a collapse of leadership, norms and values. This election is not about right vs. left, but a choice between honest or corrupt; democracy or dictatorship; truth or lies. We will do everything we must to restore hope. The protests will emerge victorious!”

As Gantz was speaking to his fellow center-left leaders, Knesset member Ofer Shelah, who recently split from Yesh Atid to form the Tnufa Party, was making his own call for unity. He urged The Israelis Party leader Ron Huldai, party member Avi Nissenkorn and Labor leaders to consider running on a joint ticket.

“You all know me. We’ve worked on deals and political activity. There are no preconditions. Let’s sit down, let’s negotiate, we’ll reach an agreement and put together a political entity that an entire camp is longing for. Then there can be other partnerships, but let’s start,” he said.

The former Yesh Atid Knesset member added that only if one party united the center-left would it be possible to prevent Netanyahu from forming the next government: “Only a [political] entity like that can provide an answer for hundreds of thousands of Israelis who don’t have a political home. If it is formed quickly, it could reach a double-digit number of seats and shape the next government,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Huldai himself also told reporters he favored political partnerships on the center-left “without ego.” Huldai was asked if he was in favor of Lapid, who is holding steady in the polls, leading a center-left bloc.

“Lapid has already run five times, unsuccessfully. Other than that, I saw that people leave him—Bogie [Ya’alon] left, Shelah left,” he said.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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