Israel Resilience leader Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid appeared for the first time together Thursday evening to unveil their new joint Blue and White alliance, vowing to replace the ruling Likud after the April 9 elections.
“Today we are changing the face of Israel,” Gantz said in a speech carried live on national television.
“In the past decade something has gone wrong,” he said. “Israel has lost its way. The government has incited division [in Israeli society], it’s a government that divides and rules. We’re here to say, ‘enough.’ Instead of division, we want unity. Instead of extremism, we want dignity. Instead of fraction, we propose national reconciliation.”
Gantz added that he and those on stage with him, Lapid and senior partners Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, “each have an ego. We each have an agenda. But when we saw the country that is so dear to us being torn apart, we put our egos aside…none of us are above the people or above the country.
Lapid said: “We are creating a ruling party. The Israeli public will go to the polls on the 9th of April to choose what kind of country they want, what sort of country their children will live in: a country of investigations, corruption and incitement or a country of hope, resilience and a promise for the future. Netanyahu chose [racist rabbi Meir] Kahane’s people as his partners. We choose each other, and more than that, we choose the citizens of Israel.
“I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t believe that Benny Gantz could lead us to victory and then lead the country. He’ll be an excellent Prime Minister. I believe in him.”
Gantz revealed he shares some poignant family history with his new political partner.
Gantz and Lapid’s comments came hours after an early-morning announcement that the parties would merge their lists in order to boost their bid to replace Likud. The merger deal includes a rotation at the top between Gantz and Lapid.
As part of the merger, Yesh Atid candidates fill 13 of the first 30 slots, Israel Resilience gets 12, and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party, which merged with Israel Resilience last month, has four slots. Ex-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who joined the party Wednesday night, is in the fourth spot on the list. (Full list below.)
As polls show Blue and White alliance poses growing threat to his re-election, PM claims his rivals would establish a Palestinian state, endangering Israel’s very existence
Issuing a robust and detailed response to the electoral threat posed by the newly united parties of his centrist rivals Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night warned that if they came to power, Israel’s very existence would quickly be threatened by the independent Palestinian state he claimed they plan to establish.
Speaking minutes after Gantz and Lapid had held their first public gathering since merging their respective Israel Resilience and Yesh Atid parties into the Blue and White alliance for the April 9 elections, Netanyahu declared that the choice for the electorate was now “clearer than ever.”
Either Israel could be led by a “weak, new left-wing party,” supported by Arab Knesset members who he said seek to destroy Israel, or the electorate could choose “a strong, right-wing government under my leadership.”
Just before he spoke, Israeli TV channels published snap opinion polls that showed Blue and White winning more seats than Netanyahu’s Likud, but hard-pressed to form a majority coalition. Netanyahu charged that the Gantz-Lapid alliance, if the elections played out that way, would seek to muster a so-called “blocking coalition,” with Arab MKs’ support, to prevent him retaining the prime ministership. He said it was “absurd” that any such effort would be considered legitimate, since the Arab parties “not only don’t recognize Israel; they want to destroy Israel.”
Urging voters to back Likud, because only Likud could prevent a left-wing government, he challenged the credentials of both Gantz (who is helming the alliance) and Lapid, fiercely attacked their policies, and castigated their ostensible positions.
He cited Labor prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak as examples of previous left-wing generals “posing as rightists and talking of unity” whose leadership had been disastrous for Israel. “We’ve been here twice before,” he said. “In 1992 we got Rabin and [the] Oslo [accords with the PLO],” and in 1999, Barak, “the intifada, exploding buses and over 1,000 fatalities.”
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