The President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, is in the process of deciding who will be given the first chance to become the next Prime Minister of Israel. Both Benny Gantz of the Kahol Lavan (Blue & White) Party and Benjamin Netanyahu have requested they be the first to get the honor.
Gantz’ position has been bolstered by the fact that his party received the most votes in the recent election and increased their overall support from the prior election. Netanyahu’s argument is that, unlike Gantz, he is already close to forming a leadership bloc with other parties.
Today, the Israeli Arab Joint List made Rivlin’s decision harder.
Netanyahu’s coalition consists of his Likud party and the smaller UTJ and Yamina parties, putting him in control of 55 of the 61 Knesset seats necessary to remain Prime Minister. Gantz had 33 seats from his party’s win, plus the votes of Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union… bringing it up to 44.
This morning, three of the four parties of the Joint List, all of which had remained unwilling to support Jewish candidates since 1992, threw their votes to Gantz. He is now standing with 54 seats and six parties behind him, with those parties representing a broad array of Israelis.
The lone holdout from the Joint List was Balad. While Gantz has campaigned on being open to listening and responding to the concerns of the smaller Israeli groups, Blue & White’s overall philosophy remains firmly patriotic and stand strong against most of the demands and claims of the people living in the Palestinian-controlled areas.
“Balad has worked as part of the Joint List to take down Benjamin Netanyahu, and will clearly keep on doing so, but at the same time does not see Gantz as an alternative, when he and his party support the annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, threaten with a war in Gaza and unwilling to annul the racist Nation-State Law.”Haaretz
The willingness of the other Joint List members to support Gantz stems from Netanyahu’s increased willingness to use them as a foil during his election efforts. His campaign played off of xenophobia, working to portray most Israeli Arabs as anti-Israel and internal dangers. This led to a large turnout from their voters, who make up roughly one fifth of the population of the country, and now has additionally convinced parties who are uncomfortable with Benny Gantz to nevertheless rally behind him.
The 55/54 split keeps Netanyahu’s bloc in the lead with total votes, if barely. That may yet be enough to give him the first chance to build a coalition. If so, he will be in a position to legally terminate the corruption investigations against him. Nevertheless, Gantz’ chances to take the reins first increased dramatically this morning.