Sep 22, 2019

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

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.

Go deeper

Netanyahu and rival Gantz meet for first time since Israel elections

Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz. Photos: Menahem Kahana/AFP; Amir Levy via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz met on Monday for the first time since this month's elections.

Why it matters: The 2 leaders were summoned to a trilateral meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem in an attempt to break the political deadlock and start negotiations on forming a unity government. The president of Israel is largely a ceremonial post, but Rivlin does have the authority to give a mandate to either Gantz or Netanyahu to form the next government.

Go deeperArrowSep 23, 2019

Israeli president gives Netanyahu first shot to form government

Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 28 days to form a new government after negotiations for a unity government with Benny Gantz, leader of an opposition center-left bloc, broke down.

Why it matters: Netanyahu would need 61 members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to support his government. His right-wing block won just 55 seats in the Sept. 17 election, though, and he has no clear path to a majority.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019

Scoop: Kushner expected to meet Netanyahu and Gantz on Israel trip

Kushner and Netanyahu. Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Jared Kushner will travel to Israel during the last week of October, Israeli officials tell me. He is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Benny Gantz, the man seeking to replace Netanyahu as prime minister.

Why it matters: Kushner knows Netanyahu well after their many meetings, but this will be his first meeting with Gantz since his entry into politics. This is another acknowledgement by the Trump administration, which had dealt solely with Netanyahu for two and a half years, that Gantz is a key political player in Israel.

Go deeperArrowOct 17, 2019