Most Right-wing Parties: We Won’t Join Gantz-led Coalition

In addition, Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon was somewhat non-committal, but said he would recommend that Netanyahu be called upon to form the next government

Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu
Dan Balilty/AP

Most party leaders on the right-wing of the Israeli political spectrum have said they would not join a coalition headed by Benny Gantz, the leader of the Kahol Lavan ticket, if Gantz is called upon to form the next government.

The leaders of two right-wing parties, Hayamin Hehadash’s Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, and the leadership of the two ultra-Orthodox factions — Shas’ Arye Dery and United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni — have all recently said they would not join such a coalition, although UTJ has stressed that its objections stem from the partnership Gantz formed to create Kahol Lavan with Yair Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid.

Lapid is anathema to the ultra-Orthodox public over his stance on policies including the conscription of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. 

Of course, the right-wing party leaders’ statements must be taken with a grain of salt to some extent. A significant percentage of supporters of right-wing parties are still uncertain about how they will vote. Any comments in support of joining a coalition government led by the Gantz-Lapid slate could weaken these parties by driving away voters who want  to ensure that Benjamin Netanyahu remains prime minister.

Are these parties willing to be in a government under Gantz?

Another interesting question is whether the prime minister’s Likud party, with or without Netanyahu — if he is forced to resign over suspicions of criminal wrongdoing — would agree to sit in a coalition with Gantz if Kahol Lavan comes out ahead of Likud on Election Day, April 9.

Yair Lapid made it clear on Monday that if Kahol Lavan does come out on top, it would prefer to link up with Likud and establish a national unity government. 

Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon was somewhat vague when asked if he would join Gantz-led coalition government, although he did say that he plans to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Netanyahu be asked to form the next government. 

“I haven’t yet heard what [Gantz] has to say. Let him get [Knesset] seats first,” Kahlon told Channel 12 News. “If Benny Gantz presents a left-wing government or a government that endangers the State of Israel and divides Jerusalem, I won’t be there. I’m a man of the national camp.” 

Bennett, the Hayamin Hehadash leader, told the Walla News website that he would not be part of a Gantz-led government under any scenario.

“I will never sit in a Gantz government, because he’s a leftist. It’s a left-wing party,” Bennett said two weeks ago, referring to Gantz’s original faction, Hosen L’Yisrael, which has now teamed up with Yesh Atid to form Kahol Lavan.

Members of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, the joint ticket consisting of Habayit Hayehudi, the National Union and Otzma Yehudit, have also said their joining a Gantz government was not in the cards. While Bezalel Smotrich of the National Union said that outright, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who heads Habayit Hayehudi, hasn’t expressed unequivocal opposition. 

“I know that right now what is absolutely on our agenda is that we’re going with Bibi Netanyahu,” Peretz said, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. For his part, however, Smotrich said: “Gantz is left wing. Period. He can disguise himself. We are unequivocally right-wing. We are the only genuine right wing that can be counted on.” 

Gantz has already made it clear that he would not serve in a government with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, which is led by former followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and now shares a ticket with Smotrich and Peretz. Gantz’s spokespeople have said that neither the Arab Balad party nor “Kahane,” as they termed Otzma Yehudit, would be in a Gantz-led coalition.

Shas’ Dery has based his billboard campaign on unqualified support for Netanyahu as prime minister. In an interview with Army Radio last week, he said: “Gantz lost the possibility of sitting with Netanyahu the moment he hooked up with Lapid. The Haredim [ultra-Orthodox] will not sit in such a government.” The ultra-Orthodox would not join a Netanyahu-led government either if Kahol Lavan is part of his governing coalition, Dery added.

On Saturday, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said he too would not join a Gantz-led coalition, a government that he said was highly unlikely in any event. “Gantz has the same chance of forming a government as [Arab MK] Ahmad Tibi,” Lieberman told a public forum in Hadera. In apparent reference to the three retired army chiefs of staff in the leadership of Kahlon Lavan, including Gantz himself, Lieberman said: “The generals’ car has gas until the election. After that, it will break apart.”