MK Odeh: Withdrawing Support for Gantz Candidacy Was Blue and White’s Idea

Head of the Joint List party Ayman Odeh and MK Ahmad Tibi (L.) on election night. (Basel Awidat/FLASH90

As many had suspected, the United Arab List indeed partially withdrew its support for Blue and White head Benny Gantz to be selected by President Reuven Rivlin to be the first to try and form a government – in order to put Binyamin Netanyahu in the position of being “first to fail” to form a government.

And that withdrawal of support was made at the behest of Blue and White, said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the UAL. In a social media post Thursday, Odeh said he was told by Blue and White officials that “we prefer that Netanyahu be the first to get the mandate to form the government. They believe Netanyahu will not succeed and after that the other parties will not want elections again and will prefer to enter a government with Gantz,” Odeh said.

Odeh named Blue and White MK Ofer Shelach as the party’s point man. “Shelach came to me and said that we only want the support of 10 of your MKs, not 13. Why 10 MKs and not 13? So Gantz would only have 54 recommendations and Netanyahu 55, and thus Gantz would not receive the challenge to form a government,” he said. As a result, Rivlin on Wednesday chose Netanyahu to form a government.

Shelach told Army Radio in response that “I spoke with Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, and we discussed how the civil issues they are concerned about are important to Jews as well, and that Blue and White would advance them. Odeh made the decision to support Gantz. It was a good decision but it was not led by me. I cannot tell the Balad faction how to vote.”

After endorsing Gantz Sunday, the United Arab List on Monday formally rescinded the endorsement of all factions, notifying Rivlin that Balad – with their three MKs – had not endorsed Gantz. Odeh had previously reported to Rivlin that three MKs of the Balad faction had not agreed to the party’s decision to nominate Gantz, and according to election rules, the choice of a candidate to form a government must be unanimous within a faction. Speaking Monday, Tibi said that while it was important to remove Netanyahu from power – and a recommendation for Gantz to try and form a government would be a good first step in that direction – Gantz “just wasn’t our cup of tea,” due to his rightwing policies and efforts to fight Hamas in Gaza, Tibi said.