At 2:26 AM, Blue and White Party Leader Benny Gantz took to the stage, addressing a tired yet energized and celebratory audience at election headquarter in the Tel Aviv Port.
“I’m happy and very excited to be here tonight. Of course we will wait for real time results. But it seems we met mission, and did it our way,” Gantz declared. “We have proven that the idea of Blue and white, an initiative we set up less than six months ago, made it big time and that it is here to stay. Over a million citizens said no incitement and division, and yes to unity. They said no to corruption, yes to integrity. No to an attempt to ruin Israeli democracy, yes to guarding Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Tonight, however it develops from here, the journey to fix Israeli society begins.”
Gantz said that “Israel has huge security challenges. Who knows this like we do, with over 100 years of collective security experience. But no less than security, the internal divisions worry me. These cracks threaten to tear us apart. We as a leadership must act immediately to heal them. Society is strong, and trusts itself but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”
Gantz said that political contacts with other parties are already underway, adding, “I mean to talk to everyone. We will work to set up broad national government that will express the will of the people. Before politics, we are one nation and one society. The division and incitement are behind us, unity and reconciliation are waiting for us. I call on my rivals in all the camps, put divisions aside and work together for the sake of a good righteous society for all of its citizens. ”
Moshe Ya’alon, former defense minister and the third highest ranking member of Blue and White, said during his speech that “the party leadership has a clear statement – we have to get the State of Israel back on track. We turned into a group of 35 Knesset Member after the last elections, who have travelled through the whole of Israel from Metula to Eilat… to convince people to vote.”
“Now, it is clear that the nation expressed its, despite the campaign of deceit,” Ya’alon said. “The nation said no to the politics of lies, to incitement, to polarization and hate, corruption, extremism, to harming the state and its democratic institutions.”
Yair Lapid, the number two leader of Blue and White, said, “The citizens of Israel have proven they are better than their politicians and better than politics. Extremists are out of the Knesset or have shrunk. The people who tried to scare us away from the ballot box brought us to the ballot box.”
Lapid added that “in the coming days, everyone will need patience. This will be a long delicate process, most of it behind closed doors, and in the end, there will be result. Give this process its due time.”
‘200,000 projectiles in the north, 50-billion shekel deficit; unity is a must’
Senior Blue and White Party member Zvi Hauser, who acted as the former government secretary for Netanyahu, told JNS that his party will seek a unity government with Likud, but that Netanyahu would need to make himself available to deal with his legal matters, and resign.
“There is no doubt that Blue and White before the elections said it seeks unity, and Blue and White intends, after the elections, to act with full force to set up a unity government. A unity government is a necessity for two reasons: The first is that when the Israeli public was given the choice between a unity government and an immunity government [a reference to a narrow right-wing coalition that would have given Netanyahu immunity against indictment], the initial indications – we don’t know full results yet – is that the Israeli public chose unity, not immunity,” Hauser said.
“But more than that, what is taking place around us; The 200,000 projectiles [the combined threats in Lebanon and in Syria] in the North, war almost erupted in Gaza, the 50 billion shekels deficit that this government led to – there is no choice but unity. Hence, this is our objective, and I believe and hope that after this unnecessary round of elections, we’ll complete it with a unity government,” he added.
Noting that Netanyahu has been highly explicit in his opposition to a unity government, Hauser said that the prime minister “objected to unity because for him, the required achievement was immunity [from prosecution], not unity. The prime minister understands that immunity doesn’t go together with unity.”
Netanyahu, in the past decade, has created several significant achievements for Israel, Hauser acknowledged, saying, “and I say this as someone who was government secretary during those years. But now has to deal with his [legal] affairs, to clarify his situation through the accepted mechanisms for clarifying truth [the courts] in these sensitive situations, under the same standard that was set for former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.”
“As an Israeli patriot, every patriot would agree, no one wishes to see, once again, a prime minister convicted of criminal indictments. But there is a need to stick to democratic standards and a state that is a good example, we cannot have a prime minister who is immune to the need of clarifying the truth, and if, god forbid, need be – to go to trial.
Blue and White Knesset Member Yoel Razvozov also expressed support for the goal of a unity government, saying, “This is the most correct scenario for the State of Israel. We don’t have any other options and this is what should happen.”
Razvozov also sounded a note of caution, saying, “We still don’t know if we’re the biggest party. We’ll wait for final results. But the public gave trust in us. In the first elections round, we were told we wouldn’t succeed, and in the second we were told we definitely wouldn’t succeed – we succeeded. We are a big party, over a million people likely voted for us, and gave their trust in us. We now have to translate the public’s trust into acts on behalf of the State of Israel – what we promised to do. This is possible. The past government has been at the wheel for too long and it should be replaced.”
He stressed that the party has, based on its April elections experience, “learned not to celebrate exit polls. We’ll wait for final results. One thing is clear, Netanyahu can’t form a coalition of 61.”
“It seems he will have to give the keys to someone else, like Benny Gantz, to set up a coalition with Likud, without Netanyahu,” Razvozov said. “A responsible, stable coalition that will deal with the real problems of the State of Israel.”