Benny Gantz calls on Netanyahu to resign, but still wants unity government

A unity government under his plan is “the only way to avoid unnecessary elections that no one wants,” Gantz argues.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz addresses the press as Netanyahu faces indictment. (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz addresses the press as Netanyahu faces indictment.
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, but is still offering to form a national unity government with Likud if possible, in remarks made at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.
“In light of the circumstances, I call to form a unity government that is as broad as possible under my leadership,” Gantz said. “I will be prime minister for the first two years while Netanyahu can work on his legal issues. If he is acquitted, he can come back and be prime minister.”
In the interim, however, Gantz said Netanyahu must “respect what most of the nation wants and resign from his role and fight to prove his innocence.
“Israeli citizens will not be the hostages of any leader,” he added.
Gantz made the offer two days after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he is indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Blue and White has long said that it cannot be in a government led by the prime minister while he faces criminal charges.
As of Saturday night, there were 18 days left for the Knesset to find a candidate for prime minister supported by a majority of MKs, or an election will automatically be called.
A unity government under his plan is “the only way to avoid unnecessary elections that no one wants,” Gantz argued.
The question of who would be first in a rotation agreement for the premiership was one of the main obstacles to holding serious negotiations between Likud and Blue and White for a unity government during the past eight weeks when Netanyahu and then Gantz had the mandate to form a government.
The other issue was Netanyahu’s insistence on negotiating in the name of the 55-member religious-Right bloc.
Responding to that issue, Gantz said that he wants his unity government to be “as broad as possible,” but that it must be “based on reasonable, liberal outlines.”
“Whoever only cares about his own backyard will not be with us,” he said, an apparent reference to sectoral parties like those of the haredim (ultra-Orthodox).
Gantz would not entertain the idea of a different candidate leading Likud and coming first in a rotation either, saying that “Blue and White won the election. We are the biggest party in the Knesset. We will form the government.”
Likud responded by saying that “after he failed to form a government, Benny Gantz is suggesting to form a government led by him. If Blue and White has a leader other than Gantz, we will consider letting them lead the rotation.”
Netanyahu has failed to form a government twice this year.
Gantz also slammed Netanyahu for his rhetoric, accusing him of acting like “the state belongs to him and has no right to exist without him.”
He also accused him of inciting against former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
“He should already know the dangerous price of words that could God forbid turn into bullets,” Gantz said of Netanyahu. “The time of hatred is over, and the time of internal healing has begun.”
Blue and White has also demanded that Netanyahu resign from his other portfolios immediately. Ministers who are not the prime minister must resign if they are indicted.
“On the basis of a Supreme Court decision, a minister who has been indicted may not continue to hold office,” the party wrote. “Therefore, it is imperative that you vacate the ministerial positions you hold in the government of Israel.”
Netanyahu is currently Health Minister, Diaspora Affairs Minister, Agriculture Minister, and Labor and Social Services Minister. He holds the first portfolio, while UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman is a deputy minister with the power of a minister, for ideological reasons. The other three ministries belonged to MKs who resigned or were fired during the interim government, which has been in place for almost a year.
Gantz wrote on Facebook that Thursday, when Netanyahu was indicted, was a “very sad evening for the State of Israel, and for me personally, as I’ve known Netanyahu for years and worked with him.
“It’s important for all of us to internalize that Israel is a country of laws and every citizen is equal before them. I would like to support law enforcement today: Continue doing your work without fear.”
The Democratic Union held a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, calling on Netanyahu to resign.
Netanyahu is “eating away at the state’s institutions and the infrastructure on which Israeli society is built,” the party's leader Nitzan Horowitz said. “With his lies, Netanyahu incites against the institutions of law and order. He can no longer faithfully fulfill the job of prime minister.”
At the same time, a pro-Netanyahu demonstration took place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, along with a counter-protest across the street.
Netanyahu took to Facebook to thank Israelis showing him “extraordinary love” for “going to the intersections,” meaning, holding protests against the charges that he committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
“Of course, I want to make it clear that this whole process will ultimately be decided in court – according to the rule of law,” he said. “And that means [that regarding] those who do not follow the rule of law within the police or the prosecutor’s office, there will be scrutiny, there has to be criticism and there needs to be a correction – that’s the main thing I said yesterday.”