The Joint Arab List recommended that Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz be tasked with forming a government, in consultation with President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday, ending days of speculation as to whether they would do so.
It was the first time that Arab parties have recommended a candidate for prime minister since Yitzchak Rabin in 1992.
However, as Joint List leader Ayman Odeh made clear, it was not really intended as a recommendation for Gantz, but rather a means of denying Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a fifth term in office.
“For us, the most important thing is removing Netanyahu from power… so we will recommend Benny Gantz to form the next government,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh told Rivlin.
“We have been turned into a group that is not legitimate in Israeli politics. If we are being pushed out, we will take our rightful place,” Odeh added, according to The Times of Israel.
The Likud responded with a vehement condemnation, reminding the public that it said during the campaign that this would happen:
“As we warned, the Arab parties that oppose Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and glorify terrorists recommended Gantz for prime minister,” it said in a statement.
“Likud will make every effort to establish a stable and strong government committed to maintaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We can’t have a government that relies on Arab parties that oppose the State of Israel.”
The Joint List was not unanimous in the decision. Three Balad MKs dissented, and so did not attend the meeting on Sunday with Rivlin.
Combined with expected support from the left-wing parties, Democratic Camp and Labor-Gesher, Gantz will head a center-left bloc of 57 seats compared to Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc of 55.
The Joint List was not unanimous in the decision. Three Balad MKs out of the party’s 13, dissented, and so did not attend the meeting on Sunday with Rivlin.
Later, on Sunday night, Balad published its opposition to the recommendation:
“Balad’s position is not to recommend Gantz either because of his right-wing political positions, which are not very different from those of the Likud, and because of his bloody and aggressive military history.”
In addition, Balad noted that “Blue and White completely ignored the demands of the Joint List, and strongly refused to discuss them or commit to anything formally and publicly. Each of these reasons is enough not to recommend Gantz, and certainly when all of these reasons exist,” they were quoted by Arutz Sheva as saying.
However, a spokesperson for Rivlin said that the dissenting opinion will not affect the numerical strength of the party’s recommendation. “As far as we’re concerned, we count the Joint List’s recommendation for Benny Gantz as the support of 13 MKs.”
Updated Sunday, September 22, 2019 at 3:25 pm Balad comment