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Israel's Arab Joint List endorses Benny Gantz in bid to oust Netanyahu

Benny Gantz.
Benny Gantz. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List, recommended to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday that Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White Party and the main opponent of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, form the next Israeli government.

Why it matters: This is the first time since 1992 that an Arab party in Israel has recommended one of the candidates for prime minister. The recommendation by the Arab Joint List brings the number of members of the Israeli parliament who support Gantz to 57, compared to 55 for Netanyahu. Since Netanyahu and Gantz virtually tied in last week's election, Odeh's move almost guarantees that Gantz will receive the mandate from Rivlin to form a government.

The big picture: The fact the Arab Joint List recommended Gantz is a huge development in Israeli politics and in the integration of the Arab minority population in Israeli society. It's even more meaningful when considering that Gantz was a former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force, and that two of his running mates are also former IDF chiefs of staff.

  • Throughout his tenure, Netanyahu's policies have often been at odds with the Arab Palestinian citizens, who make up approximately 1/5 of Israel's population.
  • Just last summer, Netanyahu passed a controversial nation-state law that granted Jews the "unique" right to "exercise national self-determination." He later declared that "Israel is not a state of all its citizens," but rather a "nation state of the Jewish people — and only it."

What they're saying: In a New York Times op-ed, Odeh wrote that the decision to recommend Gantz is not an endorsement of his policies, but rather an effort to end Netanyahu's "long reign of corruption, lies and fear."

  • "Our decision to recommend Mr. Gantz as the next prime minister without joining his expected national unity coalition government is a clear message that the only future for this country is a shared future, and there is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Arab Palestinian citizens."
  • "By choosing to recommend Mr. Gantz, we have proven that cooperation between people, Arab and Jewish, is the only principled political strategy that will lead to a better future for us all."

The bottom line: Netanyahu needs to remain in government in order to win immunity if the attorney general decides to indict him for 3 cases of corruption after his upcoming hearing on Oct. 3.