Benny Gantz's support for Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank, as well as his party's vote to disqualify a member of the Joint List, an Arab-majority political alliance, from running in the country's March 2 election, have “complicated” the slate's possibility of supporting his bid for prime minister, a senior figure in the faction told Haaretz.
While the Joint List was able to come up with the necessary rationale to recommend Gantz to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin after the last round of elections in September, this time “the situation is much more complicated,” the source said on Wednesday.
Members of the Joint List, a coalition of four parties, have expressed a sense that Gantz’s support for Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and of the Trump peace plan, which also provides for annexation of all West Bank settlements, presents a challenge to cooperation with Kahol Lavan.
In addition, they cited Gantz’s party’s vote in the Central Election Committee to disqualify Joint List Knesset member Heba Yazbak from the March ballot, although they are waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter before making further campaign decisions.
Mtanes Shehadeh, the chairman of Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, told Haaretz that from the standpoint of his party, there is no basis for recommending Gantz as prime minister or to take steps to strengthen his hand, although he noted that the matter had not been formally considered by the Joint List as a whole.
“It’s not our job to look after Gantz. We need to look after ourselves and strengthen the Joint List and increase its representation in the Knesset,” Shehadeh said.
For her part, Joint List member Aida Touma-Sliman of the alliance's Hadash party said Kahol Lavan “hasn’t left any opening for cooperation.” Gantz and his party are seeking to advance matters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, she claimed.
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“It’s our job to bring about real change, to increase the turnout and the size [of our Knesset faction], so we can force through the rules of the game,” Touma-Sliman said.
Ahmad Tibi, the Joint List faction whip and chairman of the Ta’al party, noted Gantz’s failure to object to a provision of the Trump plan that suggests the possible transfer of heavily Arab areas of Israel near the West Bank border to a future Palestinian state. “This is an illegitimate suggestion,” he said. “Kahol Lavan has been silent and hasn’t responded. At the very least, from a moral standpoint, they need to express a position.”
Such political moves “come at a price,” he said, but added that the Joint List has not debated its position regarding Kahol Lavan and he could therefore not commit that the two slates would not eventually cooperate.