Gantz fires Hendel as minister, Hauser from committee chairmanship

Vote on dissolving Knesset, elections likely delayed till next week.

DERECH ERETZ Party MKs Yoaz Hendel (left) and Zvi Hauser confer in the Knesset Plenary Hall in April 2019.  (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
DERECH ERETZ Party MKs Yoaz Hendel (left) and Zvi Hauser confer in the Knesset Plenary Hall in April 2019.
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
In a moment of political drama and pique, Blue and White chairman and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz fired Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel from his ministerial position and announced his intention to remove MK Zvi Hauser as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The two MKs, formerly of Blue and White but who bolted the party to form their independent Derech Eretz faction, declared last week that they would now be joining the new party being established by Likud renegade MK Gideon Sa’ar.
They did not, however, resign from their coalition positions or as MKs, although they threatened to resign on Monday morning if Blue and White approved any compromise agreement with the Likud to pass a budget and avoid new elections.
It appears that this latest show of disloyalty to Gantz was what triggered his decision to fire them.
“I have decided to end Communications Minister Hendel’s tenure and to remove MK Hauser from his position,” Gantz said on Twitter on Monday evening.
“Hauser and Hendel chose their new political home and therefore ended their journey as representatives of Blue and White.”
Gantz said that he will assume the position of communications minister instead of Hendel.
Speaking on Channel 12 News, Hendel said that he and Hauser would not resign as MKs since it would then be possible to do “a thousand and one revolutions which we do not agree with,” an apparent reference to the possibility that there could be a majority of the Center-Left with the Arab parties to form a new government should they quit the Knesset.
He said that he accepted Gantz’s right to fire him and Hauser said that he respected his former party leader, but that their paths had separated on ideological grounds.
Hendel added that he and Hauser would not join any new government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after new elections, saying that “we gave one opportunity to Netanyahu; we compromised on entering a government with him. We will not give Netanyahu another opportunity. We are seeking to create an alternative to Netanyahu – and if we don’t succeed, we will sit in the opposition.”
 
IN A SEPARATE development earlier on Monday, it became apparent that a vote on dissolving the Knesset and calling elections that was scheduled for Tuesday would not happen until the beginning of next week, seemingly due to the Likud opposing ancillary components of the Knesset dissolution bill.
The bill includes stipulations that would cut party funding for elections, as well as requiring transparency both in spending and messages in paid advertisements on social media, measures which the Likud opposes.
The Knesset dissolution bill was scheduled for its first reading on Tuesday. Although it is still on the Knesset plenum’s agenda, it is one of the later items and is unlikely to be reached since the plenum needs to finish early due to the Hanukkah holiday.
A vote on the bill is now likely to be pushed off until next Monday, December 21. But if it is not passed in its second and third readings by December 23 – along with the state budget, which seems likely – the Knesset will be dissolved automatically and elections.
If the dissolution bill is passed, however, then elections would be called for March 16; if the Likud and MK Yair Levin block it, then the elections will take place a week later on March 23.
Blue and White faction chairman MK Eitan Ginzburg and Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich strongly protested the expected delay on the dissolution bill during a meeting on Monday morning with Knesset speaker Levin.
“You’re behaving like a legislative censor,” Ginzburg told Levin, according to online Walla News.
“You don’t care about the date, just the reduction in [party] funding and the fight against fake news,” he said.
Levin responded that it was unreasonable to dissolve the Knesset without the agreement of all its factions and that he wanted to give more time “for dialogue” over the bill – although Ginzburg retorted that the Likud decided to dissolve the 21st Knesset after the April 2019 election by itself.
Earlier, opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said the country needed new elections because the public has lost trust in the current government.
“We’ll go to elections because the people of Israel want a leadership they can trust. They want a government they can believe in, which won’t lie to them all the time, which won’t drive them crazy all day every day,” said Lapid during a faction meeting.
“We’re the only ones who can be trusted when we say we won’t sit with Netanyahu,” he added. “Only believe those who have proven to you that they can be trusted.”