Benny Gantz criticized his former Kahol Lavan partners Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya'alon on Friday after they accused him of disbanding the alliance in favor of a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a Facebook post, Gantz wrote: "We have reached an intersection where some of my friends thought that elections were preferable to trying to reach compromises. I will not be the one that didn't try to prevent the continued violation of the rule of law for another year at least, I will not be the one that didn't try to prevent a fourth election, and I will not be the one who refuses to get in under the gurney during a national emergency."
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Gantz continued by explaining that he "suggested every way" Kahol Lavan could stick together and "explore all possible alternatives." He added that he tried convincing his party members that he take on the role of Knesset speaker only temporarily, or alternatively nominate MK Meir Cohen, a member of Lapid's Yesh Atid faction, for the position and have him step down in case a reasonable agreement was reached with Netanyahu for unity.
However, Gantz claims that his partners refused this offer and left the party shortly after.
Gantz blamed Lapid and Ya'alon for wanting to drive the country to a fourth election, arguing that there were no other alternatives. "Anyone who wants and pushes, especially now, that families who have lost their livelihoods and are anxious about their health to go out to the polls – be brave and say it openly, sharply and clearly."
Gantz added that their decision to leave the slate was difficult for him to accept, but he "totally agreed with the choice."
Cohen, who was Kahol Lavan's candidate for Knesset speaker before Gantz was nominated for the position and led to the dissolution of the list, attacked Gantz Friday morning on his expected entry into a unity government with Netanyahu: "This is the first time in Israeli history that a person is given a mandate to form a government, and does not understand the magnitude of the mission, and is too busy being second and crawling to Netanyahu's government."
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Cohen claimed that from day one Gantz could form a government, he was "busy drafting his surrender letter to Netanyahu," adding that "Gantz did everything to get into the Netanyahu government" and that "many many good Israelis' votes were stolen."
He said that "The coronavirus excuse is a refuge for people who do not adhere to their principles. We proposed a six-year emergency government that went under sand. Until the last minute we tried to do everything we could."
MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh of Hosen L’Yisrael was the first of Benny Gantz's party members to publicly criticize his decision to join a unity government with Netanyahu, saying he had betrayed his voters.
The Druze lawmaker wrote on twitter Friday: "Leadership with integrity is measured in times of crisis. A leader does not betray his principles and his electorate. I came to politics to replace the government of racism, elimination and the government of the nation-state law, and not to be a partner of it! I will not sit even for one day under the corrupt of Balfour Street."
Kahol Lavan activists from the Druze community told Haaretz that Kamal-Mreeh's resistance to joining a unity government was a result of the heavy pressure exerted on her by the community. According to the activists, Kahol Lavan got about 23,000 votes from the Druze community, and Kamal-Mreeh herself reassured these voters during the campaign that Gantz will not join a Netanyahu-led government - partly because of the nation-state law.
The Druze public is expecting after Kamal-Mreeh's statement that she does not intend to join a unity government with Netanyahu, that she will also act on the issue. Some are calling on the Arab-majority Joint List to add her to the party.
Gantz's Kahol Lavan party split moments ahead of the vote, after the party leader nominated himself for the position of Knesset speaker on Thursday, in a bid to keep the possibility of a unity government with Netanyahu's Likud party.
In his first speech as Knesset speaker, Gantz argued for an "emergency national unity government" to allow Israel to recover from the coronavirus outbreak. "These are not normal times," he told lawmakers, "and they call for unusual decisions."
He said this was "the right thing to do at this time," stressing he would "not compromise democracy," but made no direct remarks on Netanyahu's impending trial, which during the March 2 election campaign he said disqualifies him from serving on as prime minister.