Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz may, in the final analysis, secure the coalition-making support of the Arab Joint List – but it won’t be easy.
Gantz must deal not only with their anti-Zionist rhetoric and huge budget demands, he must also reckon with the internal politics and sensitivities of his potential allies.
Thus, while Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh counseled the former IDF chief on Channel 13 “to act with courage” and invite his party to join the coalition talks, he also publicly chastised Gantz on Thursday for slighting the Balad faction in a round of phone calls following his acceptance of the coalition mandate from President Reuven Rivlin.
Gantz had to hear—and read in the papers—Odeh’s rebuke: “If Gantz wants to talk to the parties, he can talk to me, but once he has chosen to speak to us he cannot ignore one or the other party,” Haaretz quoted him as saying. “It is true that Balad did not recommend Gantz, but also all the right-wing factions did not recommend him and he spoke to them.”
The scenario being explored is that of a Blue and White-led minority government with outside support from the Joint List. Such an arrangement could serve the interests of both sides: the Arab MKs could get at least some large portion of the desired funding for their constituencies, but without the odium of actually being part of the government, holding ministerial posts; Gantz could have a functioning coalition, and presumably would seek some understandings that the Arab MKs would tone down the rhetoric and keep a relatively low profile, thereby mitigating the fact of owing his power to the Arabs, a “dangerous” outcome that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against.
Meanwhile, Ayman Odeh confirmed on Thursday night that he’ll be meeting with the prime minister-designate soon to discuss these matters.
“We still have not confirmed a date but it is reasonable to assume the meeting will take place on Tuesday,” he said. “We will determine the time and date for the meeting on Sunday.”