Blue and White’s Bind Over a Knesset Vote on Annexation

If the Trump peace plan comes to a vote, Kahol Lavan leader would oppose unilateral steps at annexation that are not coordinated with the Palestinians, but there are also divisions within the party on the plan

By Jonathan Lis, HAARETZ

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz in the Knesset chamber.

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz in the Knesset chamber.Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announced plans to annex West Bank territory following last week’s unveiling of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians have put Kahol Lavan in a bind. The party’s chairman, Benny Gantz, has made it clear that Kahol Lavan objects to unilateral moves at annexation that are divorced from other elements of the Trump’s “deal of the century” and that are made without coordination with the Palestinians.

On the other hand, sources in the party said Sunday that it may support a proposal for some form of annexation if Netanyahu brings it to the Knesset before the March 2 election. “If there’s a snap decision to bring unilateral annexation to a vote, we may vote in favor. It would be a major dilemma,” a senior party source told Haaretz, adding that if the issue arises, Kahol Lavan’s Knesset faction would convene for lengthy deliberations that would end with Gantz deciding how to proceed.

But one Kahol Lavan Knesset member who wished to remain unnamed and who highlighted the range of opinion in the faction, said: “It’s clear to everyone that Yoaz Hendel could vote in favor of annexation and Yael German against. There is no alternative to allowing members to vote their consciences on such a matter of principle.”

Kahol Lavan has tried recently to obscure the foreign policy confrontation that it is facing. Its Knesset members were instructed to cancel media appearances and other public events over the weekend. The party has also not declared a position on the suggestion in the Trump plan that towns near the West Bank in the so-called triangle of Israel Arab communities might be transferred to a future Palestinian state.

Once Kahol Lavan Knesset members were allowed to be interviewed on Sunday, it was Ofer Shelah, not one of the party’s top four leaders, who made it clear that the party rejects such a move.

The Trump plan, Shelah said, “has one offensive provision, and that’s the exchange of territory in the triangle,” he told Army Radio. “We don’t need to talk about that, and when Kahol Lavan assumes power, the provision will be dropped from the agenda. It’s unfortunate that the cause is there, but without it, we will plan to hold a Knesset vote.”

Gantz himself said last week that he intends to bring the “deal of the century” as a whole to the Knesset for a vote as an agenda item (and not as proposed legislation). Such a move on the part of the opposition would lack genuine weight and would be meant in part to embarrass right-wing parties that would be forced to vote for recognition of a Palestinian state if they sought to support the plan in its entirety.

But even such a symbolic move has been put on hold by an unrelated Kahol Lavan demand – that the Knesset debate the “incessant terrorism from the Gaza Strip.”

In his speech last week at the Institute for National Security Studies, Gantz urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. “I make a call upon Palestinian leaders. Since the [1997] signing of the Hebron accord by [Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser] Arafat and Netanyahu, you’ve been refusing everything. Say ‘yes’ for once and give your children hope for a better future. Don’t miss another opportunity for peace. The [Trump] plan recognizes your need for independence on 70 percent of the West Bank, a link to Gaza and addresses issues such as a seaport and projects that would advance your economy by a decade… It’s time you recognized Israel as a Jewish state.”

Kahol Lavan’s Achillles’ heel

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud and the left of center Labor-Gesher-Meretz slate have identified Kahol Lavan’s Achilles’ heel, in which it finds it difficult to present a clear position on unilateral annexation. The two factions have begun targeting Kahol Lavan voters from both the left and the right.

Likud posted a video over the weekend that calls Kahol Lavan a “comme ci, comme ça” party and reminds viewers that Kahol Lavan’s Yoaz Hendel supported the nation-state law while Yael German stated she would work to have it repealed. It also noted that one of the leaders of Kahol Lavan, Moshe Ya’alon, opposes Shelah’s support for a Palestinian state.

For his part, Labor-Gesher chairman Amir Peretz has made it clear to left-wing supporters of Kahol Lavan that his party opposes the transfer of the triangle’s residents to Palestinian rule. “Arab citizens are our partners,” he said.


February 4, 2020 | 22 Comments » | 1,070 views

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  1. @ Ted Belman:
    Article from HaAretz take this with a grain of salt. Gantz had announced he was for annexing Jordan Valley. As he said the Trump Plan is Blue/White’s actual policy.

    I would not be surprised if Blue/White was approving for the Trump Plan and at the same time applying sovereignty to the 30% of Judea/Samaria. This could be the basis of a Likud, Blue/White and Yisrael Betenyu coalition.

  2. In his speech last week at the Institute for National Security Studies,

    This confirms my belief that Gantz has a relationship with the iNSS. The INSS proposal for a peace agreement with the Palestinians, which can be viewed on the web, is much less favorable to Israel than the Trump plan, and much more favorable to the PLO.( I will post a link to the INSS plan in my next post). I suspect that Gantz’s heart is with the INSS plan, not the Trump plan. But he is a smart enough politician to support the Trump plan, at least before the elections. He does not put the INSS plan at risk by doing this, since he knows that the PLO will never accept the Trump plan. But the INSS, and probably Gantz, does believe that there is a chance that the PLO will accept their plan. It calls for a unilateral withdrawal by Israel from a “contiguous ” area of central Judea-Samaria as a last resort if the Palestinians reject any peace agreement.

  3. Clearly, Kahol Lavan is uncomfortable with the Trump plan because many of them think it doesn’t give enough to the Palestinians. On the other many in the Likud and further right are uncomfortable with the plan because they think it gives to much to the Palestinians at Israel’s expense. This highlights the differences between the parties on the question of “territorial compromise,” “separation,” and a future Palestinian state.

    Unfortunately, as this Haaretz article, which seems well informed, indicates, this suggests that aKehol Lavon government is likely to make undesirable “painful compromises in the interest of peace,” including recognizing a sovereign Palestinian state on PLO terms

    This important policy disagreement will make it very difficult for the Left and Right blocks to form a unity government after the elections. In the last analysis, Israeli politics are more about policy differences than personality clashes.

  4. This is an op-ed in this week’s Israel Hayom English edition. The Author thinks that Deri may be telling the truth when he says that Leiberman has reached a secret deal with both the Arab parties and Kehol Lavan, and that Kahol Lavan has a secret signed deal with the Arab parties, going all the way back to the the December 2018 election. The author points out that Leiberman has not bothered to deny Aryeh Deri’s accusations. Neither have the leaders f the Arab parties.

    If the polls are correct, the Right-voting public is about to vicariously elect lawmakers who will watch the historic moment presented to Israel fade away and do nothing about it.
    The Right is about to miss the opportunity of a lifetime
    One does not need a crystal ball or a sixth sense to predict the outcome of the March 2 elections. All one needs is some common sense, a clear mind, and a calculator to know that the next government is going to comprise members of the Left, Post-Zionistic Left and anti-Zionistic lawmakers from the Arabic parties to support the show from planum gallery. The most probable scenario is that we are headed toward one of the most leftist governments in Israel’s history – installed in power by mostly right-leaning voters.

    In his speech this week, Shar leader Aryeh Deri explained that all deals between Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, and the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance were signed and sealed long ago away from the public eye, adding that this was not “a political assumption”, but actual, factual information.

    Follow Israel Hayom on Facebook and Twitter

    Reality suggests that Deri is correct. When MK Yoaz Hendel, Blue and White’s token rightist, dared to state his opinion about potential annexation under the Trump administration’s peace plan, Joint Arab List MK Ahmad Tibi called him to order in an explicit, humiliating threat, along the lines of, “Want my support? You better behave.” Hendel did as he was told.

    Those who realized that Blue and White’s rightist fig leaves are nothing but an aesthetic decoration, but think that the growing post-Zionist leftist government would be neutralized by three former IDF chiefs and Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Lieberman, should think again. A military past, illustrious as it may be, guarantees nothing, let alone hawkish right-wing politics. If anything, history has proven the opposite.

    Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s remarks when he was IDF chief – essentially admitting the IDF risked the lives of Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza so as not to harm Palestinians – echo those of former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Democratic Union MK Yair Golan. Former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon of Blue and White enjoys, for some reason, an air of political integrity, but he is not guided by principals. Since he resigned as defense minister in 2016 Ya’alon has been driven by one principle only: Revenge.

    As for Lieberman, he has proved he is a political chameleon, dedicated to only one thing – securing Knesset seats at all cost. While his party was dying, he reinvented himself, and the his usual campaign slogan of “Death penalty for Arabs” has been replaced with “Better Tibi than Bibi.”

    But the best proof for Deri’s claim is pinned in the simple fact that not one of Blue and White captains or Lieberman has bothered to deny the collaboration with the Joint Arab List. Moreover, it stands to reason that if this allegation was baseless, an across-the-board denial of this nature would dominate the two parties’ campaigns.

    The fact that an immense Right-voting public is about to vicariously elect lawmakers who oppose the existence of a Jewish state, hurts tenfold in this historic and fatal moment. Applying sovereignty and extending Israel’s legitimate borders is a dream most in the Israeli public has been longing for. This dream will come to life only after the elections, and only with a real right-wing government, at the helm, chaired by the one person who paved the way to acknowledging this vision.

    But according to recent surveys, the more likely scenario is that in which right-wing voters are about to leave this historic moment to the likes of Meretz lawmakers Tamar Zandberg and Nitzan Horowitz, Labor parliamentarian Merav Michaeli, and Joint Arab List MKs Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh.

  5. Join Arab List lays out conditions for joining Blue and White government
    Joint List chief Ayman Odeh says his party will back formation of Blue and White government – but only if Liberman is not included.

    The Joint Arab List party laid out a list of demands Monday for supporting a coalition government led by the Blue and White party after next month’s election.

    Joint Arab List chairman MK Ayman Odeh said the party would not give its backing to any government which includes Avidgor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Galei Tzahal radio reported.

    “We have nothing in common,” said Odeh. “Liberman is a right-winger, he backs the idea of transferring the [Arab] residents of the [Wadi Ara] Triangle, he is against Arab voting, and we are as far away from him as possible.”

    “There is no situation in which we could support any government that includes Liberman – we will vote against. We aren’t just about ‘Never Bibi’, we are against Bibi’s ideas and the path of the Right.”

    In addition, Odeh said that for Gantz to receive his party’s endorsement after the election, Blue and White must publically vow not to apply Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria, despite US support for such a move.

    “We recommended Gantz [after the last election], but we didn’t hear anything from him against the annexation or transfer [plans]. There is no way that we will support him again or recommend him [as prime minister] if he does not come out against this. There is no way we will endorse him if he maintains the positions he’s had in recent weeks. I want to hear from Gantz that he is against transfer.”

    The recently released US peace plan backs Israeli sovereignty over roughly 30% of Judea and Samaria, while also calling for land swaps from pre-1967 Israel to a new Palestinian state. The plan suggests Israel transfer the Wadi Ara region – a strip of land adjacent to Samaria with a large Israeli Arab population – to the new Palestinian state; an idea backed in the past by Avidgor Liberman.

    “Blue and White is silent in the face of Netanyahu’s attacks on the Arab population,” Odeh continued. “We won’t accept this situation. We can get to 61 seats without Liberman – the Joint List can get 16 seats. I am the most consistent person there is, and I want to replace the Right, and not just Netanyahu. We need a real Left with values that says these things.”

    There is a photograph with the story showing Gantz conferring with both Odeh and Tibi. Gantz in between the two Arab representatives. Indicates that Gantz can make a deal with the anti-Zionist parties if he wants to and his own party will let him.

    From Feb. 11 Arutz Sheva.

  6. @ Adam Dalgliesh:
    You may be lead astray by politicians and writers who want to bad mouth Liberman. Perhaps you are inclined to hope there is truth to their comments to make your previous erroneous forecasts correct at a later date.

    The Arabs are ONLY talking about the recommendation process and not joining a coalition. As of now I heard Odeh say he would no longer recommend Gantz due to his approval of the Trump plan. This I heard in a recent interview. Tibi also said something very similar.

    Liberman is not sitting with the Arabs and they are not sitting with him in any government. It is political suicide for Liberman to sit with the Arabs as his voters would turn on him as they are very Antagonistic to the Arab parties.

    If one speculates about possible coalitions then:

    It is actually possible that “annexation” of the settlements brings Liberman back into a right wing coalition. Liberman lives in Nokdim (Judean Desert) and I am sure he wishes to have sovereignty applied. His voters would be in favor of this and it is good rationale to have some compromise on other issues such as religion and state.

  7. @ Adam Dalgliesh:Funny the same comments were reported elsewhere by Odeh and he was clearly saying that he could no longer support Gantz in a recommendation.

    Joint List leader Ayman Odeh vowed to oppose Blue and White leader Benny Gantz forming the next government if he does not change his recent policies, Odeh said in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday morning.

    Also – Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi ruled out the Joint List joining the government in an Army Radio interview on Tuesday.

  8. @ Bear Klein: This needs to be read carefully, Bear. Both sides say they can’t work with the other unless the other party changes some of its policies. That is not a flat out denial that the two blocs are open to collaboration in a future government if they can negotiate a joint policy to bridge these differences.

    Also not that saying Blue and White will not agree to the Arab parties actually being part of the government does not mean that Blue-White would refuse to form a government if the Arab parties give them a vote of confidence, or agree to abstain. (If the haredim agree to form a coalition with Blue-White, all Gantz would need would be the abstention of the Arab parties to form a minority government). In return, Gantz could offer the Arab parties a consultative role with respect to some government policy changes, such as more money and constructionfor the Arab sector, and economic aid to the PA and Hamas. Blue-White has never expressed opposition to policies of this sort, and even the Likud government has adopted these measures, although with more strings attached than the Arab parties want. There is clearly a basis for a deal here if both Blue-White and the Arabs show some flexibility over the next few months. It seems to me that they could reach some sort of formula for limited cooperation, without either side having to abandon their core program. I suspect that there are exploratory talks going on to find a compromise formula.

  9. @ Bear Klein: Leiberman has made it clear that he will not serve in a government with either the haredim or the Arabs. That will make it extremely difficult for him to serve in either a right-of-center or left-of-center government.

    I don’t think he wants to be part of any future government at all, but rather wants to play a gadfly role as a Knesset “back-bencher.” This is not so suprising that he has served in many governments over a long period of time, and feels he has never been able to get his way. That has left him feeling frustrated and resentful. Also, after all, he is over 70, the age when most people usually retire. He may wish to work at politics only part-time, while pursuing business interests for his remaining years in order to assure a “legacy” for his heirs. At any rate, that is what I would do in his shoes.

  10. @ Adam Dalgliesh:I understand you will believe what you like. I have listened to Odeh and he is not recommending Gantz and he will not be in a government with him. Put whatever spin you want on it as I said before and was borne out correct by the results the Arabs are not going to part of any government.

    My guess is you will continue to pursue this line of thinking because you are unable to admit you were wrong on this subject and still are. Anyway the election is in three weeks. I again offer you a wager which you smartly refused last election cycle.

    Best hope for a government is:

    That “annexation” of the settlements brings Liberman back into a right wing coalition. Liberman lives in Nokdim (Judean Desert) and I am sure he wishes to have sovereignty applied. His voters would be in favor of this and it is good rationale to have some compromise on other issues such as religion and state.

  11. @ Bear Klein: Bear, somehow I can’t imagine YOU ever admitting that you were ever wrong about anything. I seem to recall you said that Leiberman would be part of a right wing government after the first, second and third elections. That didn’t happen. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    As for the bet, I accept in principle your challenge. But first we have to each state our predictions and record them on a free space somewhere on the web. Please first tell me what exactly is your prediction for the outcome of the comming election in detail and in full. Then I will give you my complete prediction.

    We also need to agree that the wager will only be settled when either a new government is formed, or no government is formed and the President is forced to call yet another election.

    I am not a rich man and cannot agree to a wager of more than $50.00.

    I have responded to your challenge. I look forward to hearing from you.

  12. @ Adam Dalgliesh:
    Actually I said he (Liberman) would NOT be part of the right wing coalitions because of the religion/state issues.

    I believe Ted, was forecasting that or hoping that. I also said he would not be part of a coalition with Arabs and you kept insisting he would.

    So on the bet you are waging the Joint List along with Liberman & Blue/White will be part of the same government coalition? Is that correct? I am saying that the Joint List will NOT be part of the government coalition? Wager is $50. Kindly confirm.

  13. I notice that you haven’t responded to my proposal that we go ahead with the wager. Having taunted me for not having agreed to your wager request in the past, I think you should respond now that I have accepted it. As the folk sayings say, “Put your money where your mouth is,” and “Either put up or shut up.”

    Bear Klein Said:

    That “annexation” of the settlements brings Liberman back into a right wing coalition.

    i AGREE.

    Ted quotes you as saying that annexation of the settlements will bring Leiberman back into the right wing coalition. Is that you position now?

  14. @ Adam Dalgliesh:I sure did read two posts up in second paragraph.

    I quote myself, ” So on the bet you are waging the Joint List along with Liberman & Blue/White will be part of the same government coalition? Is that correct? I am saying that the Joint List will NOT be part of the government coalition? Wager is $50. Kindly confirm.”

  15. If one speculates about possible coalitions then:

    It is actually possible that “annexation” of the settlements brings Liberman back into a right wing coalition. Liberman lives in Nokdim (Judean Desert) and I am sure he wishes to have sovereignty applied. His voters would be in favor of this and it is good rationale to have some compromise on other issues such as religion and state.

    Adam, hours later still waiting for my confirmation from you regarding the wager. I have responded and repeated the response when you in error said I had not responded to your wager challenge? Are you dodging again?

  16. Listening to an interview of Eli Avidar, a member of Knesset from Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party he insists that a government will be formed without the Arabs and without the UTJ/Shas. He also thinks Bibi will end out of the way so that a coalition will be formed. I and the interviewer did not think he made himself clear. Somehow he thinks a unity government will be formed around the Trump plan with pressure of Trump.

    Listen to the interview at

    If he is correct my speculation about a right wing government will not come to fruition.

  17. Just heard Liberman being interviewed extensively. He went on and on against the Joint List calling them a fifth wave. He then went on and on against sitting with the Haredi. He also called it for Bibi to leave. He did not have clear answers about how a government coalition could be formed. He just kept saying there are 90 seats from Liberal Zionist Parties. It will found from there.

    I am not at all confident that he will be flexible in joining a coalition. He would need to backtrack from campaign promises or the Haredi would have to become more liberal.

    So fourth elections anyone?

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