Gantz's Party Looking to Diversify Slate, Which Has No Women or non-European Jews

The Hosen L'Yisrael party is facing criticism from ultra-Orthodox parties and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid alike. The religious are unhappy with his election promises while Lapid insists he must remain at the helm of any alliance

Gantz at the Hosen L'Yisrael campaign launch, January 29, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rival Benny Gantz launched his long-awaited campaign, politicians responded to his choice for Hosen L'Yisrael's slate, his policies and goals.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians attacked Gantz's speech, claiming that his platform advances civil marriage, a mixed prayer area at the Western Wall, and public transportation on Shabbat. "This is not the way to unite the nation – this is how you divide it," said Shas chairman Arye Dery. "Do not unravel the delicate tapestry that unites us as a nation. Do not touch the heritage of Israel."

Deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman, chairman of the United Torah Judaism party, stated that Gantz will be implementing an "anti-religious agenda."

Gantz's speech, which broke the silence of the reticient candidate, increased the momentum of a party on the rise. The party also announced its enlistment of former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, solidifying its security credentials. 

"Gantz is discovering political boot camp," said Litzman. "Talking about coordinating with the ultra-Orthodox and, in the same breath, promising transportation on Shabbat, civil marriage and a Reform Western Wall – that doesn't go together, and that will not happen." 

>> With a prime-ministerial look, Benny Gantz went for Netanyahu’s jugular | Analysis ■ Israelis should keep in mind that only Yair Lapid can end Netanyahu's saga | Opinion

Still, the ultra-Orthodox parties are not ruling out meeting with Gantz. One source stated that "he isn't Lapid," referring to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who has pushed for the ultra-Orthodox community to be drafted to the military, an issue on which Gantz has not yet commented. Even so, the ultra-Orthodox parties are expected to continue to support Netanyahu's candidacy.

Gantz's speech also drew strong responses from the Yesh Atid party. Hosen L'Yisrael wants to form a union with Lapid, but only if Gantz can remain at the helm, a precondition that Yesh Atid finds unacceptable. "The only question that remains is who can beat Netanyahu, not who can win the semi-finals," said a source from Yesh Atid, "and the only one who can stand before Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] with a knife between his teeth, in the political and public arena, is Yair Lapid."

Despite the strong words, the possibility of uniting the parties is not off the table, sources in Yesh Atid said. Ya'alon said Tuesday that both parties will run on a unified ticket in the upcoming elections. While Yesh Atid sources have stated that it is possible to form a center-left camp, they insist that it would have to be run by Lapid.   

Apart form Ya'alon himself, two spots on his slate are said to be reserved for former Netanyahu spokesman Yoaz Hendel, who resigned in 2011 in the wake of a sexual assault scandal involving the prime minister's bureau chief, and former Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser who resigned two years later.

The party is aware of its homogeneity, and is working towards bringing women and Mizrahis (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) onboard. Gantz would probably be happy to bring on independent MK Orli Levy-Abekasis, but as of Wednesday morning, there has been no progress on this front. Starting next week, Hosen L'Yisrael is expected to begin to reveal the names of its candidates. Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv Asaf Zamir will likely be added, as will former newscaster Miki Haimovich.