TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused his main rival, Benny Gantz, of being “entirely dependent” on the Joint List of Arab parties in order to form a government, after MK Ahmad Tibi threatened Gantz’s Blue and White party that his party would not join a coalition if it continues to back annexation of the Jordan Valley.
“Ahmad Tibi reveals that Benny Gantz is entirely dependent on him,” Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter account.
The tweet was accompanied with a video of Tibi shouting at MK Yoaz Hendel, one of Blue and White’s more hawkish members and a vocal supporter of annexing the Jordan Valley, threatening him that if Gantz’s party continues to make campaign promises of applying sovereignty to the territory, it would find itself without a coalition.
אחמד טיבי חושף שבני גנץ תלוי בו לחלוטין. pic.twitter.com/9T9TQtrxhh
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 13, 2020
“Keep talking about annexing the Jordan Valley – but if you move forward with this plan, MK Benny Gantz will remain chairman of the opposition,” Tibi warned.
Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata then retorted that “MK Tibi will not determine what our platform is.”
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, had previously recommended Gantz form the next government, although on Tuesday he admitted the recommendation was “technical” with “the main recommendation being not Netanyahu.”
However, Odeh told the Haaretz daily that the technical recommendation could turn into a “fundamental one” if Gantz would emulate late Israeli prime minister during the doomed Oslo accords, Yitzhak Rabin.
“In such a case, we’ll act the way we acted then and we’ll be a bloc” to prevent Netanyahu from remaining prime minister,” Odeh said.
Odeh also revealed that Blue and White had treated the Joint List “like a mistress” by secretly courting them prior to the recommendation.
“I think Kahol Lavan wanted to treat us like a mistress. They wanted to use us for two or three months just to throw Bibi out and then form a unity government. [Blue and White MK] Ofer Shelah sat with us secretly and asked us not to tell anyone,” he said.
“I told him that first we’ll finish the recommendations, then we’ll reveal the negotiations. And they, like a man who doesn’t want anyone to know he’s having an affair, were very angry,” he added.
Only a few months earlier, Blue and White party had been clear on the importance of annexing the Jordan Valley.
Gantz in July said valley was of “vast strategic importance” and added that it “should and will be always be part of every political settlement, as it is the eastern defenses of the State of Israel.”
Moshe Ya’alon, also of the Blue and White party, vowed that Israel would maintain control over the Jordan Valley.
“Anyone who understands anything about security knows that the valley has to be an inseparable part of Israel,” he said.
The Joint List has made it clear that it would oppose any efforts to annex the Jordan Valley, describing the measure as a “war crime.”