Blue and White: Strategic change decided recently

Gantz changed his strategy after previously reaching out to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties and announced Tuesday night at a campaign rally in Beersheba.

An election poster of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv (photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
An election poster of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and his strategists decided to call for a liberal unity government in recent days in order to contrast him with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sources close to Gantz said Wednesday.
Gantz changed his strategy after previously reaching out to haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties by announcing at a campaign rally in Beersheba Tuesday night that he would seek a coalition with Likud and Yisrael Beytenu and – at least initially – without Shas and United Torah Judaism.
“There is a campaign dynamic that has to be addressed, and we addressed it,” said a source close to Gantz who was involved in the decision. “This shows the difference between Gantz – who wants to help the majority of Israelis without sectarian parties controlling the government – and Netanyahu, who wants the sectarian parties to help him obtain immunity from prosecution.”
Channel 13 reported that the decision was made reluctantly by Gantz, who comes from a religious home. Channel 12 said the move was made because Blue and White had lost votes to Yisrael Beytenu.
Strategist Israel Bachar initiated the move, and American consultant Joel Benenson was involved.
Leaders of Shas and UTJ denounced Gantz for saying he would form a “liberal unity government,” without “extremists or extortionists,” widely seen as a reference to the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing religious-Zionist parties.
United Torah Judaism chairman and Deputy Health Minister MK Yaa'cov Litzman and senior UTJ leader MK Moshe Gafni said that “the cat was out of the bag” and that Gantz’s efforts to hide his positions regarding the ultra-Orthodox parties had now been exposed.
“After he has tried for a considerable period to conceal his opinions and even did everything to separate himself from his partner Yair Lapid, today it is clear that there is no difference between them,” said Gafni and Litzman in a joint statement to the press.
“It has become clear that Benny Gantz is someone without values or a backbone. He has no problem dividing society in Israel for a few potential Knesset seats. He is not fitting for a position of responsibility, lacks any abilities in public service, and his partnership with Yair Lapid is described by the sages as ‘woe to the evil man and woe to his neighbor,’” continued the two UTJ leaders.
They added that their party would be recommending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government.
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri said he was pained and saddened that Gantz had been “dragged after Lapid and Liberman, and has chosen the path of hatred, arrogance and societal division just to get some votes.”
He said that Gantz had boycotted “hundreds of thousands” of his fellow citizens and that he would bear “personal responsibility” for the division he has sown.
Until now, the haredi parties UTJ and Shas have refrained from attacking Gantz since he has refrained from publicly attacking them and has privately expressed a willingness to compromise on matters of religion and state which are close to their heart.
Even on Tuesday, Deri said that if Gantz and his fellow party leaders would separate from Yesh Atid and Lapid, they could join a right-wing, religious government that might be formed.
But Blue and White has over the last few weeks been battered by Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu Party for his reticence to underline his commitment to liberal, pluralistic values.
Whereas Blue and White obtained 35 Knesset seats in the April election, it is currently polling between 30 and 31 seats – while Yisrael Beytenu, which took just five seats in the April election, is polling between nine and 10 seats.
Yisrael Beytenu rejected Gantz’s comments, saying they were a partially coordinated plan between him and the ultra-Orthodox parties, and that the Blue and White leader planned to bring UTJ and Shas into a coalition he would form after the election.
“It is clear that those who are most concerned by a strong Yisrael Beytenu are the ultra-Orthodox parties and Blue and White,” the party said in a statement to the press.
“The only one who can stop the establishment of a state of Jewish law and keep the ultra-Orthodox out [of the government] is Yisrael Beytenu.”