In wide-ranging interview to Ynet just days before elections, Blue & White chairman praises Trump peace plan as ‘good starting point’, predicts Likud will not be able to form government until current leader, signals agreement with Liberman on ending ultra-Orthodox grip on Jewish religious life in Israel

Blue & White Chairman Benny Gantz says should he win Israel’s unprecedented third elections in a year on March 2, he will form a government with the center-left Labor-Gesher-Meretz party and the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu.

He said would even be open to a coalition with Likud, on condition that Benjamin Netanyahu no longer leads the party, but definitively ruled out any partnership with the predominantly Arab Joint List.

בני גנץ
Benny Gantz (Photo: Tal Shachar )


Gantz made his comments in a wide-ranging interview to Ynet on Saturday, just 15 days before the election and after months of media silence.

“The first stage of my minority government,” Gantz said, “will be based on a partnership with Yisrael Beytenu, Labor-Gesher-Meretz and a sizeable Blue & White party. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has already stated that he does not want a fourth election or any other partners, which will not be necessary anyway.”

According to Gantz, Likud will not be able to form a government with Benjamin Netanyahu at its head – as has been the case in the past two elections – and that a Blue & White-Likud unity government was possible without Netanyahu.
With regards to the Joint List, Gantz reaffirmed his previous statements party would not be part of any coalition he leads, saying their support from outside the coalition would be “unnecessary.”

The former IDF chief said that partnership talks with Liberman have gone very well since the start of the campaign season, with “great accomplishments” with regards to their respective positions on religion and state.

לקראת הפגישה בין גנץ לליברמן
Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman (Photo: Ofek Avshalom)


Liberman is a fierce critic of the Haredi parties, accusing them of holding a monopoly on religious Jewish life in Israel – something with which Gantz appeared to agree.

“We want civil marriage, an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall and open shops and transportation on Saturday,” Gantz told Ynet.

“We want to let people live in respect, each to their own beliefs,” he said.

“We want a Jewish and democratic Israel, without the risk of a binational state. Netanyahu has for years worked to divide us; I want to bring us all together as one.”

Regarding possible partnerships with the ultra-Orthodox and the religious-Zionist parties, Gantz said that racists “like Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich” would have no place in his future government, but did not dismiss Smotrich’s Yamina colleagues, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked.

“Anyone who accepts that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state will accept our priorities and outlines for a coalition,” said Gantz.

Reaffirming his promises last week that Blue & White would keep both the education and health portfolio for itself, Gantz said that United Torah Judaism co-chief Yaakov Litzman would not continue as health minister in his cabinet.

‘A good starting point’

Turning to diplomatic affairs, Gantz also complimented U.S. President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Middle East peace, calling it a good starting point for further talks with the Palestinians.

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Benny Gantz meeting with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House (Photo: Courtesy)


“I’m for annexation and the application of Israeli law to the West Bank settlements, but all this should be done during talks and as cooperation continues with the Palestinians and the other Arab countries,” said Gantz.

“We are in continuous contact with American officials, which I had going back to my days as the IDF attaché to Washington and as IDF chief of staff. I know how to continue this diplomatic push.”

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Benny Gantz in 2014, during his tenure as IDF chief of staff (Photo: Reuters)


With regards to the current tensions with the Gaza Strip, Gantz who was IDF chief of staff during the 2014 Gaza war, said that the Hamas terror group that rules the coastal enclave will have to make a decision.

“Money will not be transferred to Gaza for bribes or ransom,” said Gantz, referring to two Israeli prisoners and the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers that Hamas is believed to be holding.

“We will demand a complete agreement, total quiet on the border and the return of the Israeli captives in their possession, or the IDF will respond with a fierce and harsh blow,” he said.

“I will strike at the smallest infraction, be it a diplomatic violation, a balloon or a rocket,” he added.

The Blue & White leader also criticized the meeting between former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN last Tuesday, calling the meeting “completely unnecessary and should not have occurred in the first place.”

As reported by Ynetnews