Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said Tuesday that after Israel's March election, there will be an alliance between parties that oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that he intends to lead his party again.
Earlier on Tuesday, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn announced his departure from Kahol Lavan to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai's new party. He is expected to be followed by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in the coming days.
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In a press conference, Gantz slammed his critics, saying: “To all the whiners and the cowards: while you were sitting and typing, I prevented the courts from being closed. While you were tweeting, I made sure that you could protest, against me, too. While you were making political calculations, I only did calculations for the citizens of the country.”
According to Kahol Lavan sources, during the government debate over whether to allow protests during coronavirus lockdowns, Gantz said in private talks that "we are going too far" in allying with anti-Netanyahu protesters. Party sources also said that "Gantz didn't even know about the decision not to close the courts."
Gantz added: “The end of Netanyahu’s political position is Kahol Lavan’s accomplishment. We are playing a very heavy political price now, but I am not thinking of myself for a moment.”
"A strong Kahol Lavan that I lead will be an integral part of the process of mending [the country]," Gantz said. "Anyone who wants to can leave. Anyone who doesn't like it – the door is open."
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In a speech aired after Gantz's, Mayor Huldai promised that his party's principles include preserving the country's Jewish majority, ensuring Israel's security, building emergency rooms in the so-called periphery, and a broad coalition.
"We will not get used to a prime minister under indictments," Huldai said at a press conference. "We will not get used to a constant threat to the system of law enforcement. I have decided that I can no longer stand on the sidelines."
In a meeting following Nissenkorn's decision, Gantz reportedly asked that Nissenkorn resign from his role as justice minister, and is expected to take over the role himself.
Nissenkorn announced that he would be joining forces with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who is expected to announce his new party Tuesday evening.
Ashkenazi's move was not just motivated by the party's likely collapse in the upcoming March election, but also by tensions with Gantz, the party's chairman, about his leadership style, which he saw as overly secretive. He also expected Gantz to step aside and allow him to take the reins of the party.
Most of the lawmakers that are still part of Kahol Lavan do not expect that it will run in the March election on its own slate and that most members will quit the party by the time the parties must submit their final slates.