Blue and White co-chair Benny Gantz delivers a speech, March 18th, 2019.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
When Blue and White leader Benny Gantz delivered his maiden address in politics two months ago, he made a point of being polite to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gantz did not mention Netanyahu by name when he criticized him and simply said the time had come for him to be replaced after a decade of service.
Perhaps Gantz was waiting for later before turning negative, perhaps he did not want to turn off Likud voters or – as tapes revealed by Channel 13 on Monday night indicated – perhaps it was because Gantz did not want to lock the door on joining a government led by Netanyahu.
Soon after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit delivered his intentions to indict Netanyahu on one charge of bribery and three on fraud and breach of trust, Gantz announced that he can no longer serve in Netanyahu’s coalition.
Making the announcement then was intended to maximize the impact of Mandelblit’s announcement and deliver a serious blow to Netanyahu.
But if the polls are accurate, it was too late.
Netanyahu had been working for months to preempt Mandelblit’s ruling, take the air out of the tires of the indictments and make sure they did not change a single vote.
Likud did not go down in the polls, and the boost Blue and White received from the party’s formation the week before has gradually been lost.
As the party fell in the polls, Gantz became more critical of Netanyahu. He called two angry press conferences in the Gaza periphery. He compared Netanyahu to the late extremist, right-wing leader Meir Kahane.
Sunday night in Haifa, Gantz called for a commission of inquiry of Netanyahu’s role in the Submarine Affair. But he did not make headlines.
So, on Monday night, he said it louder, this time with colleagues Moshe Ya’alon, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi at his side, and called the scandal the worst in Israel’s history. Gantz even took questions from the press.
If the sub story draws enough attention now, perhaps it could still bring down Netanyahu. Gantz will highlight Netanyahu’s alleged corruption in interviews with TV networks on Wednesday.
But Gantz is running out of time.
Next week, the Israeli election goes on location to Washington, where Netanyahu and Gantz will speak at the AIPAC Policy Conference. Netanyahu will get a high-profile meeting with US President Donald Trump, while Gantz is not expected to meet with anyone of that stature while he is in town.
If Netanyahu uses the events in Washington to widen the Likud’s lead over Blue and White indicated by a poll on Sunday, the election could be over.
The remainder of this week could be the last chance for Gantz.
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