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Gantz bloc flounders as Netanyahu’s stabilizes

Blue and White head Benny Gantz' rejection of forming a government with the Joint List has left the Israeli election campaign even more deadlocked than the two previous ones.
Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party is seen after delivering a statement near Tel Aviv, Israel January  25, 2020. REUTERS/Corinna Kern - RC26NE9TMJT9
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Two weeks after Benjamin Netanyahu stood beside President Donald Trump at the unveiling of the US peace plan, it turns out that none other than Blue and White Party chair Benny Gantz gave him the greatest election gift of all. The announcement didn’t break the deadlock in the polls, as Netanyahu was hoping. The good news came from an entirely unexpected direction. It happened at an election rally on Feb. 11, when Gantz disavowed any potential ties with the Joint List and said that it would not be a part of any government he forms. It only served to expand the emerging gap between him and the party he needs to recommend him to the president to form the next government.

After two elections in the past year, Gantz has learned to be a disciplined campaigner. The distance that he is now putting between himself and the Joint list is all part of a tactical move cooked up by his advisers. They are working under the assumption that once the leftist parties joined together as the Labor-Gesher-Meretz list, there is no longer any risk of the center-left bloc losing votes. This new alliance is sure to pass the Knesset entry threshold and the Blue and White Party is now free to appeal to soft-right voters. They hope that the two or three seats from the soft right that they now hold will not return to Netanyahu’s embrace after the release of the Trump peace plan, which is a dream deal to the Israeli right. The party understands that it must keep this electorate at all costs, even if it means disavowing the Joint List, which includes Knesset member Heba Yazbak. This is why they also supported disqualifying her from running, thus pleasing the right while angering the Joint List.

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