Israel Election: Gantz Concedes Defeat, Lapid Vows to Turn Knesset Into Battlefield

Kahol Lavan's Yair Lapid says the party will make Likud's life miserable from the opposition

Benny Gantz at a Kahol Lavan press conference, April 10, 2019.
Meged Gozani

Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz ceded defeat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech on Wednesday night, saying, "We all accept the nation's decision, we all respect and accept the president's decision and whatever comes of it," referring to the president's role in choosing which leader forms the government.

Gantz said that the election results "mainly herald the size of the expectations outside – not just for the names Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, or [Moshe Ya'alon]. They're searching for another way, a different language, a different connection."

Speaking before Gantz, Yair Lapid, number two on the Kahol Lavan slate, said his party will make Likud's life miserable from the opposition. "Part of having the DNA of the governing party is never giving up, the Knesset will be a battlefield," Lapid said. 

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Lapid promised that this Knesset's opposition will be the largest yet. "We will demand an official investigation and we will not let up on the investigation into Netanyahu. We will show the citizens of Israel how their lives could look with leadership that cares about them." He added, "We did not come here in order to end our 2019 campaign, we came to begin our 2020 election campaign."

Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya'alon at a press conference, Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019.
Meged Gozani

On Wednesday morning, Gantz wrote to supporters, "Friends, good morning. Yes, good morning!" In discussing the election results, he wrote: "Although it appears that dark times are ahead, there are still two unknowns: there is no final answer, since there may still be electoral changes which may allow us to begin political procedures of one kind or another. They certainly have no way to hide the same rays of hope we provided to the nation and society of Israel."

Tuesday night, after exit poll results were released, Gantz gave a speech to Kahol Lavan activists in Tel Aviv, saying that his party needs to form the next government. "We are asking to thank Benjamin Netanyahu for his service to the country, and to say that the many differences between us have risen above the precipitation and anger that has accumulated. We will respect the will of the voter – the largest party is the one that must receive the mandate from the president to build the government."

According to data from the Central Election Committee, 95 percent of the votes have been counted, and about one million people voted for Kahol Lavan, giving them 35 seats. Likud also received 35 seats, but the right-wing bloc is larger than the center-left, allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government.