Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa'ar announced on Sunday that they would run jointly in Israel's November election, calling for a centrist unity government with Gantz at the helm that would "say no to extremism."
"Israel is in the biggest democratic, national and political crisis in its history," Gantz said during his Sunday evening address. "Israeli society should no longer have to choose between the extremes." Israelis, he said, need a functioning government that will ensure Israel's security.
It's not all about Bibi: Election Overdose returns
"Israeli society shouldn’t have to choose between extremes; it needs a statesmanlike Israeli center to lead it," he said.
He praised the work of the previous government, and said "Today, we are laying the cornerstone for the next government," adding "we are starting to march down the path that would end this political crisis."
"There are many Israelis in all parts of society who deeply wish for partnership, for unity and stability. There are many people in the national right wing who are looking for a home, and in the next election, you will have one address," he said.
"Our intention," he continued, is to "establish, after the election, a unity, centrist, stable and statesmanlike unity government. A government that will say no to racism, no to extremism and yes to unity among all segments of society and all Israelis – ultra-Orthodox, religious, secular, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews. A government that will create connections among everyone who believes in a safe, Jewish and democratic Israel." Gantz added that they are calling on other officials who support this vision to join them.
“Therefore, we have decided to run together, and we urge others who support this statesmanlike path to join us. We urge everyone who recognizes Israel as a strong, safe, Jewish and democratic state and doesn’t hold racist views to take part. We urge voters who want a government to be formed here, who want stability, to put their faith in us.”
- Left-wing Meretz party has a thing or two to learn from this Kahanist lawmaker
- Shaked’s swan song could keep Netanyahu out of the PM's chair
- 'Don’t ask me to save you from Bibi. Save yourselves'
Sa’ar said that by running together, the parties would create “a united political bloc that could break the political stalemate.”
He added, “The political goal to which we must aspire after the next election is forming a broad national unity government that doesn’t rely on the fringes. Benny Gantz is currently a suitable leader to head such a unity government."
Sa'ar continued, “Between the parties in the ‘Netanyahu bloc’ and the left-of-center bloc, there is room for a strong, responsible political force from the statesmanlike right and the security-oriented center.”
Sa'ar himself will receive the second slot in the party, while the fifth and seventh spots will be held for other members of his New Hope party. According to the proposed agreement, former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot will be placed in one of the first three spots on the ticket, if he agrees to join the party.
The partnership brings together Kahol Lavan and New Hope in an attempt to provide an electoral alternative to the two biggest parties led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who Gantz said "has dragged Likud and the country into an erosion of statesmanlike behavior and damage to democratic principles."
Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the joint statement, tweeting: "I'm convinced they have good intentions. I expect to continue working with them for the benefit of the citizens of Israel."
Likud responded, "It is not our business how the left divides its votes."
Neither Gantz nor Sa'ar are interested in including Communications Minister Yoaz Handel, the current number four on the New Hope list. This is likely due to the antipathy between him and Gantz, after Handel, who previously ran on Gantz’s Kahol Lavan slate, broke with him after Gantz decided to form a unity government with Netanyahu following the March 2020 election.
The main purpose of establishing a joint list is to create a counterweight against Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Gantz is interested in becoming the largest party in the “anti-Netanyahu" bloc and competing head-to-head with his former partner. For this, Gantz was willing to compromise with Sa’ar and give him what he wanted. According to the latest Channel 12 Poll, such a union would receive 15 seats in the Knesset (out of 120).