Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced on Sunday evening that they have agreed to merge their Blue and White and New Hope parties for a joint run in the upcoming election.
Speaking at a press conference, Gantz said that the two parties intend to establish a centrist unity government that will say “no to racism and extremism and yes to unity between all parts of the nation: Chareidim, religious and secular, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews – a government that will create a connection between everyone who believes in a Jewish, democratic and secure Israel.”
The move is a vital one for Sa’ar as polls showed his New Hope party barely passing the electoral threshold. The Blue & White party would garner eight to nine seats according to polls, but a merger with New Hope showed the joint slate gaining over double the number of votes if the two parties would run separately.
Additionally, according to Channel 12 News journalist Amit Segal, the merger of Blue and White and New Hope could lead Gantz to the prime minister’s chair. “What Gantz and Sa’ar are trying to do is to break free from Lapid’s domination,” Segal said in an interview with Radio 103FM. “If the merger succeeds, Gantz as prime minister will definitely be on the agenda.”
Gantz will serve as leader of the party, Sa’ar will take second place, and the remaining spots will be filled by Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White), Culture Minister Chili Tropper (Blue and White), Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope), the head of the Knesset’s Economics Committee, Michael Biton (Blue and White) and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin (New Hope).
Gantz, and Sa’ar after him, both slammed opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu during their speeches, making their position clear as an “anti-Bibi” party.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)