Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz is set to partner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a unity government, serving initially as foreign minister but then taking over from Netanyahu as prime minister in September 2021, according to a reported deal taking shape amid immense political drama in Israel on Thursday afternoon.
Gantz’s decision to join forces with Netanyahu immediately led to the collapse of Blue and White, with the party’s No. 2 Yair Lapid rejecting the move and apparently heading into opposition with others from his Yesh Atid component of Blue and White. “Gantz chose Netanyahu over Lapid,” Channel 12 reported succinctly.
Yesh Atid and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem faction both filed a formal request to break away from Blue and White late on Thursday afternoon, leaving only Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party to join forces with Netanyahu’s Likud. Lapid had reportedly told Gantz he preferred that Israel go to fourth elections rather than see Blue and White partner Netanyahu in power.
The coalition is likely to constitute 78-79 MKs — Likud, Gantz’s Israel Resilience, Labor, Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism — according to Channel 12 (though other reports indicated that Labor’s inclusion was not certain). That would leave Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Ya’alon’s Telem, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Meretz and the mainly Arab Joint List in opposition. However, various other fluctuations are deemed possible, with Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser from Telem, for instance, said to be weighing joining the coalition.
The unity deal was taking shape as the Knesset met to vote for a new speaker, following Likud speaker Yuli Edelstein’s resignation on Wednesday.