Gantz Doesn't Rule Out Partnership With Netanyahu 'If I Go First' at Being Prime Minister

Kahol Lavan leader, who said he 'came to replace Netanyahu,' said Likud 'offered me the world if I came on board' but stressed he won't sit in a Netanyahu-led government after September 17

Benny Gantz, leader of the Kahol Lavan party and prime minister hopeful, during a tour of the Gaza border area, August 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Kahol Lavan's candidate for prime minister, Benny Gantz, said Sunday he would be willing to consider a national unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu, if he "offered rotation [for the position of prime minister], and I go first."

In an interview with Israeli website Ynetnews ahead of Israel's September 17 election, Gantz said that if this condition was met, “it would be possible to start discussing things.”

He also said that in the days before the dissolution of the Knesset in May, Netanyahu “would have been happy to take Kahol Lavan apart. They offered me to join them and dismantle Kahol Lavan. They offered me the world if I came onboard."

When asked what offering "the world" implied exactly, Gantz replied: "Everything I want." Gantz said that Kahol Lavan could not be part of a Netanyahu-led government “but not because of personal hatred toward the man.”

>> Detoxing from Netanyahu | Opinion

Noting that three criminal charges are hovering over the prime minister, “and possibly more things later," Gantz said he is "not prepared to have a supreme ruler here who acts like a king."

Netanyahu "is busy with working out ways to defend himself," he added. "This is detrimental to democracy and we can’t accept it. We know that the proposals they want to make include immunity and damage to democracy and we can’t agree to that."

Rotation possible 'with someone else'

Even though Gantz expressed a willingness in principle to agree to a prime ministerial rotation with Netanyahu, such a move is technically impossible, Knesset member Ofer Shelah said later on Sunday. “There will not be a rotation with Benny Gantz first and Netanyahu second for a very simple reason. Within a month or two from Election Day the final decision will be made as to whether there is an indictment,” Shelah told the Knesset Channel.

“[Netanyahu] cannot be a minister in the cabinet with an indictment. Gantz was speaking about it in principle. There could be a rotation with someone else from Likud.”

On August 1, when parties submitted their rosters for the Knesset election, Gantz did not rule out serving in a unity government with Netanyahu if an American peace plan were to be presented. “We said Israel above all, and anything good for Israel above all – we’ll stick to it," Gantz said. 

Shortly thereafter, Gantz came back to reporters to clarify his position. “I came to replace Netanyahu, not sit with him – make no mistake,” the Kahol Lavan chairman said. He claimed that he had not heard the question, and pointed to his right ear: “That’s the M-16 ear," he said, alluding to a rifle used at the time of the military.

In March, Channel 13 News reported on secretly made recordings in which Gantz made it clear he did not rule out cooperating with Netanyahu in a government coalition. After Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit issued a draft indictment against Netanyahu in February, Gantz had said at a press conference that given the circumstances, joining a coalition government with Netanyahu was "not on the agenda.”

Yet in the recordings obtained by Channel 13, Gantz could be heard saying that he had not completely excluded the possibility of such a coalition. Referring to "closing the door to such a partnership," he said: "It will be closed, not locked." And he added: “Now, as we have seen, life is dynamic. The situation can change."