Gantz Backs Off of Unity With Netanyahu, Eyes Control of Parliament Instead

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz has stepped back from the possibility of joining a unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with his party now considering a plan letting the current government serve another six months while Kahol Lavan takes control of the Knesset.

The party, however, is continuing with its plan to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with Kahol Lavan lawmaker Meir Cohen, after party leaders met Friday and Monday to discuss the matter and despite threats from Likud that this would halt talks to form a unity government.

– Netanyahu’s corona smokescreen and Gaza’s ‘God-help-us’ moment

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 70Haaretz

While last week Gantz agreed in principle to join a unity government with Likud that would be headed by Netanyahu for a limited period until Gantz replaced him, he has pulled back following criticism from supporters. 

>> Follow Haaretz's live coverage as Israel deals with the coronavirus crisis in a time of political uncertainty

“First, we will get Israeli democracy back to working – and later we will form a government that will deal with the coronavirus and the other challenges that are on the line,” Gantz wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “We must not let the coronavirus crisis, which requires thorough attention – medical, social and economic – trample over Israeli democracy. Not on my watch.”

Following the response to his agreement to a Netanyahu-led government, as reported by Haaretz and Channel 12 News, Gantz realized that joining such a cabinet would spell political suicide, making him an expendable, uninfluential presence in the cabinet. The coalition talks have stopped in recent days and no further meetings are expected at this point.

Kahol Lavan has no other real alternatives. For now, the right-wing parties are showing no signs of dropping their support for Netanyahu and are following his hard line despite growing criticism from within. Replacing Netanyahu with someone else from Likud is not on the agenda.