In politics, practically anything can happen – but apparently there are limits. According to polls, both the Likud and Blue and White will between them have more than half the seats in the new Knesset, with all other parties registering no better than single-digit outcomes for their Knesset representation. Despite that, a coalition between the two does not seem to be in the cards – at least as of this weekend; neither Benny Gantz nor Binyamin Netanyahu want the other in their coalition, if they are chosen to form one.
The brouhaha began at a weekend event, when Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz dangled the possibility that both Netanyahu and Gantz would lead the next government in its two top positions. “It appears to me that the Likud will win the election, and if that happens, I believe that Benny Gantz will ask to join the government as defense minister. We will consider all possibilities” in that event, he said.
In a separate interview on Channel 13, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan made similar comments, saying “anyone who accepts the agenda of our right-wing government cannot be ruled out as a member. Gantz has had accomplishments in the area of defense. He isn’t fit to serve as prime minister, but I would not rule him out as defense minister.” Erdan clarified that including Gantz in the government would be an option only after Netanyahu established a right-wing coalition similar to the one he had in the current government. If Gantz is prepared to accept the policies of that government, he could be considered for defense minister, Erdan added.
Considering that the Likud has been portraying Gantz as weak on defense in its election campaign, the comments raised eyebrows – including those of Netanyahu himself, who rushed to issue a statement disassociating himself from the idea. “Benny Gantz supported the dangerous deal with Iran, he supports removing 90,000 residents of Yehudah and Shomron from their homes, he was opposed to the security wall between Israel and Sinai, he has trumpeted false accusations against me, and he is collapsing from the pressure of the campaign. He will not be a minister in my government. Those who want a leftist government will vote for Gantz and Yair Lapid. Those who want a right-wing government will vote for the Likud, led by Netanyahu.”
The feeling was mutual, Gantz said in his own statement. In the past, Netanyahu had served as finance minister, so media speculation had it that Gantz might consider offering that post to Netanyahu – but the Blue and White leader dismissed that idea. “Netanyahu will not be a minister in my government,” he said. “He will lose the election and then he will be busy defending himself from three indictments and the new investigation into his role in the Submarine Affair. Netanyahu has finally come to realize that he is going to lose. Israelis are tired of the internal disputes and hatred that he has been sowing. The Likud will be a partner in the government, but Netanyahu and his hatred will be driven from politics.”
In a statement clarifying his comments, Erdan later said in a social media post that “I said clearly that if we are asked to form a government, it will be with the right-wing bloc. Only afterwards will all those who accept our policies be able to join. Clearly Gantz is not our preferred candidate for defense minister.”