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August 1, 2019 4:24 pm

Gantz Backtracks on Call for Unity Government With Netanyahu

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Photo: Reuters / Corinna Kern.

Israeli prime ministerial candidate and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White joint list, did not rule out sitting in a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, then quickly walked back his statement, saying, “Maybe I didn’t hear the question right.”

The Israeli news site Mako reported that, speaking to reporters at the Knesset building, Gantz was asked if he would sit with Netanyahu and replied, “We will do whatever is good for Israel.”

“We have determined that Israel comes before everything, and whatever is good for Israel before everything else, we will support,” he added.

Shortly after, Gantz returned to his long-standing vow not to join a Netanyahu government, saying he may have misheard the question due to hearing damage from gunfire during his army service.

“The right ear is the side of the M-16,” he said, according to Yediot Ahronot. “Maybe I didn’t hear the question right. I have come to replace Netanyahu, not to sit with him.”

Gantz went on to say, “We intend to present a moderate, proper, respectful, and unifying alternative government to what appears to be an extremist alliance aimed at securing Netanyahu’s alliance of immunity,” referring to Netanyahu’s push to pass a law giving him immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.

“We have a whole nation that looks to us, all of Israeli society with all its constituents — Jews, Arabs, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox, and every sector that is entitled to receive fair treatment,” Gantz declared.

“We will lead Israel on a new, orderly, respectful path, call for a unity government and an agreement immediately after the elections,” he pledged. “I hope that we will all have a successful and respectful campaign.”

A poll conducted on Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 13 showed Blue and White strengthening by a significant number of seats, from 23 in the last poll to 29.

At the same time, the bloc of center-left parties would receive 55 seats as opposed to the center-right bloc’s 54.

Although neither bloc would receive enough seats to form a government, the results show that wild card Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party would play the role of kingmaker with 11 seats.

Lieberman has consistently stated that he wants to be part of a national unity government that excludes the religious parties.

The poll also showed that half of all Israeli voters agree, with 50 percent saying they prefer a unity government composed of Netanyahu’s Likud party and Blue and White.

Only 20 percent want a government similar to that currently constituted by right-wing and religious parties.

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