Benny Gantz: We want to build broad national unity government

"According to the current results, the Israeli public put their faith in us for the second time," said Blue and White's leader in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Benny Gantz (L) and Yair Lapid (R) at a press conference, March 21st, 2019 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Benny Gantz (L) and Yair Lapid (R) at a press conference, March 21st, 2019
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed to form a broad, national unity government and "heal Israel's wounded society" after exit polls suggested his party would be the largest in the Knesset following Tuesday's election.
He added that his party would immediately start to work on a broad national unity government and that he had already spoken with the leaders of the left wing parties.
"According to the current results, the Israeli public put their faith in us for the second time," said Gantz in the early hours of Wednesday, speaking to supporters at the party's election night headquarters in Tel Aviv.
"No to incitement and division, yes to unity. No to corruption, and yes to clean hands. No to attempts to destroy Israeli democracy, and yes to statesmanship and Israel as a democratic and Jewish state."
A feeling of cautious optimism swept across a modest crowd of Blue and White Party supporters as they watched exit polls broadcast simultaneously on Israel’s three major television channels at the party’s election night headquarters in Tel Aviv. Revised exit polls gave even greater cause for optimism.
At the second time of asking this year, the forecast showed Blue and White recording between 32 and 34 seats, the largest party in the Knesset in all three polls by a small margin.
"I have already spoken to Amir Peretz and Nitzan Horowitz and we will meet in the coming days. I will speak to Avigdor Liberman and others. I intend to speak with everyone," said Gantz. "I call here to all my political rivals, to leave the disagreements aside and work together to create a fair and equal society for all of Israel's citizens."
Unlike the last time Israel went to the polls just over five months ago, a repeat of premature victory celebrations on stage by Blue and White’s leading quartet in the hours following the exit polls always looked improbable. Gantz's comments were far more restrained on this occasion.
"The people of Israel proved today that they are better than their politics and politicians," said co-leader Yair Lapid. "The extremists are out, fear and hatred are out, incitement and division is out. Today Israeli values returned to the center stage of Israeli politics."
In preparation for possible coalition negotiations, Gantz quickly announced Blue and White's negotiating team. Efforts will be headed by Dr. Yoram Turbowitz, who served as chief-of-staff of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, and Shalom Shlomo, a former advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Adopting the “gevalt” tactic now implemented by parties across the political spectrum, Gantz and Lapid spent much of election day warning of low turnout and persuading voters to head to the polling station – and only then to the beach to enjoy the mid-September sun.
While party leaders emphasized throughout the campaign that electoral success or failure would likely be decided by their ability to motivate supporters to vote for the second time this year, fears of voter apathy surprisingly proved unfounded as turnout increased to 69.4%, exceeding April’s voting figures.
“I call upon all Israeli citizens to go and vote according to their conscience,” said general-turned-prime minister hopeful Gantz, placing his blue envelope in the ballot box alongside Revital in their home town of Rosh Ha’ayin. “I recommend voting Blue and White, but I respect any decision. The most important thing is that you all fulfill your primary civic duty. Today, we are voting for change.”
After voting, Gantz joined campaigners at Blue and White’s election day situation room, warning that turnout was low in likely Blue and White strongholds and calling for a late increase in campaigning efforts in the field. He then continued to meet with the public at Haifa’s busy Grand Canyon Mall.
Lapid headed straight to Tel Aviv beach after voting, seeking to persuade sunbathers to take a break from the heat and fulfill their civic duty too.
"We are receiving reports from all over the country that Bibi is succeeding to get people out of their houses [to vote]," said Lapid. "If Bibi has one more mandate than us, another government will be formed here with Smotrich, Litzman and Ben Gvir – a government of blackmail and racism. So if you want there to be a good government here, there's no time to go to the beach – go to vote."
In the latter stages of Blue and White's campaign, the party has promised to build a broad, secular coalition without extreme voices from both ends of the spectrum, if elected. Gantz has detailed his plans to form a majority with Labor-Gesher, Yisrael Beytenu and a post-Netanyahu Likud.
Yet, as Israelis are well-aware following April's elections, the speeches and declarations made on Tuesday night will likely prove far from conclusive. Indeed, few would have predicted the unprecedented scenario of the Likud Party failing to form a government and the nation returning for a second bite of the electoral cherry.
The next – but certainly not final – chapter in this turbulent, extended election season is set be written in Jerusalem's Talbiya neighborhood over the coming week as President Reuven Rivlin commences post-election consultations at his official residence with all parties that crossed the 3.25% threshold.