Balad votes won’t count for Gantz, putting Netanyahu in lead

PM has more recommendations as coalition consultations end

IMPORTANT VOICES too. Election campaign banners depict Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh, leaders of the Hadash-Ta’al joint list that ran in the April elections (photo credit: REUTERS)
IMPORTANT VOICES too. Election campaign banners depict Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh, leaders of the Hadash-Ta’al joint list that ran in the April elections
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin subtracted Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, from the recommendations for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to be prime minister. This put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the lead, with 55 recommendations to Gantz’s 54, as meetings between the president and the Knesset factions concluded on Monday.
The remaining Knesset seats belong to Yisrael Beytenu, which chose to recommend no one, because neither candidate committed to forming a Likud/Yisrael Beytenu/Blue and White coalition.
The Joint List recommended Gantz – the first candidate it has supported since Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 – in the name of all 13 MKs on Sunday evening.
Soon afterward however, Balad released a statement saying that it does not support the recommendation, but Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said the recommendation is still in the name of all 13 MKs.
Later, Joint List faction chairman Ahmed Tibi sent Rivlin a letter taking back Balad’s recommendations.
“I would like to notify your honor that three MKs from Balad asked me… to notify [you] that the Joint List’s recommendation today of Benny Gantz does not include them, and therefore the recommendation is by 10 MKs of Hadash, UAL and Ta’al, and not 13,” Tibi wrote to Rivlin.
Balad is the most extreme of the Joint List’s parties. Its founder, Azmi Bishara, is a fugitive from the law living in Qatar after he was suspected of telling Hezbollah where Israel’s missiles landed in the Second Lebanon War. Former Balad MK Haneen Zoabi took part in the Gaza flotilla on the Mavi Marmara, where her fellow passengers clashed with IDF commandos. Ex-Balad MK Basel Ghattas went to prison for smuggling cellphones to terrorists in prison.
While the Joint List debated whether to recommend Gantz or not, Tibi and Odeh said the decision would be for the entire 13-seat faction.
However, the party’s leader, Mtanes Shehadeh, told KAN Bet on Monday morning that Balad has “always said” they wouldn’t support recommending Gantz.
“They don’t have Balad’s support,” Shehadeh said. “We are four partner parties. No one can force the other on matters of principle.”
Shehadeh said Tibi sent the letter because the President’s Residence asked for a clarification after Balad told the press it does not support a Gantz recommendation.
“We don’t see Gantz as different from Netanyahu,” he said. “It’s not about the person, it’s the principle. We don’t see him wanting to change priorities.”
Following the Balad announcement, Rivlin commenced with meeting an additional four Knesset delegations on Monday, including United Torah Judaism, Yamina, Labor-Gesher and Democratic Union.
Media interest had waned since the previous evening, though television crews and still photographers were still in attendance. Most of the reporters who had crowded the President’s Residence on Sunday night were absent.
As expected, UTJ expressed support for Netanyahu.
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said that he wanted to make it clear that the only nominee for his faction is Netanyahu, who he said had fulfilled all the conditions of the agreement he had signed with them.
The Yamina delegation, led by Ayelet Shaked and Moti Yogev, was also adamant that it would not accept any nominee other than Netanyahu, but called on Gantz to meet with the prime minister in order to form a national unity government and thus avoid a third round of elections.
Shaked said that she had personal dreams and ideological dreams but was aware that under the circumstances, she has to face reality.
In the event that the mandate to form a government would be given to Gantz, she said, the whole of the right-wing bloc would convene to decide what to do next.
Labor-Gesher, headed by Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Abecassis, along with the Democratic Union, headed by Nitzan Horowitz, voiced their determination to get rid of Netanyahu and therefore recommended Gantz.
All five of the Democratic Union legislators spoke in the most disparaging terms against Netanyahu, who Horowitz said was not suited to be prime minister.
“Netanyahu’s incitement and divisiveness endanger democracy,” Horowitz said, adding that most of the public had voted for a different government.
Confident that Gantz would be the one to form a government, Stav Shaffir declared that “We are moving from an era of fear to an era of hope.”