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Gantz vows to form government without Netanyahu, Arab parties

By
Daniel Uria and Allen Cone
Benny Gantz, chairman of Israel's Blue and White party, said Sunday he will form a government with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Arab parties after the upcoming elections. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Benny Gantz, chairman of Israel's Blue and White party, said Sunday he will form a government with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Arab parties after the upcoming elections. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel's Blue and White party, said Sunday that he will seek to form a government without Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor predominately Arab parties in Parliament after the upcoming election.

Gantz said he expects his party to win the most seats on the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, in the March 2 election and said he would form a unity government with Netanyahu's Likud party only if the prime minister, who has been indicted on bribery and other charges, resigns.

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"Netanyahu has concluded his historic role from a political point of view. There is no government for the Likud with Netanyahu and without Bibi there is no unity," said Gantz. "He is going to go to trial. Imagine that while he is preparing for trial with a battery of lawyers on fatal issues from his personal point of view, the Chief of Staff needs to hold a very urgent nighttime discussion on security issues."

He also repeated his vow form a "Jewish majority government" and not to sit with predominately Arab parties saying he will not need the support of the Joint List party to form a government.

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"I will not sit with the Joint List and I do not need their support," he said. "I heard [Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor] Liberman saying this morning that he will sit with Labor and Meretz and he will sit with us. We have no agreements with Liberman. We had great negotiations with him before the last Knesset dissolved, we reached unprecedented achievements in understandings on issues of religion and state."

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh criticized Gantz's pledge to exclude the Arab parties from the government.

"There is one thing that needs to leave politics quicker than Netanyahu and that is the racist phrase 'Jewish majority,'" Odeh said. "If there won't be a majority of citizens, there won't be a majority."

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Netanyahu said Gantz was lying about not needing the support of Arab parties to form a majority government.

"Anyone thinking of voting Blue and White needs to know that he is voting for a government which will be dependent on the Joint List," he said. "Only a vote for Likud will bring about a strong, right-wing government and stop a dangerous government [from being formed], preventing a fourth round of elections."

Netanyahu spoke Sunday night at the annual leadership mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.

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"Without the State of Israel there is no future for the Jewish people," Netanyahu said.

But he noted relationships between Israel and surrounding Muslim and Arab states have improved.

"There is scarcely one Muslim or Arab country around the world we don't have deepening ties with," said Netanyahu. "Sometimes it comes out in the open. A year ago [my wife] Sara and I went on a very moving visit to Oman, and two weeks ago we had a very moving visit with the president of Sudan.

On Saturday, there was first flight of an Israeli airplane in Sudanese airspace.

"We now have flights over Sudan direct to South America, and people can stop on the way in Chad, which also resumed relations with us recently," Netanyahu said. "What you're seeing is about 10 percent, there are vast changes and they're coming because Israel is now a power to contend with and because collaboration with Israel helps you assure the future of your people, and helps you assure a better future for your people."

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