Shlomi Eldar writes in Al-Monitor:
Hoping to scare Jewish voters and to corner Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz, the Likud’s election campaign recently linked Gantz’s party to the Joint List, charging that the Arab party would lead Gantz by the nose in all matters pertaining to security. Gantz reacted immediately by taking aim at the Joint List, thus falling into Likud’s trap.
A novice in politics, Gantz lacks real experience in sophisticated political machinations. As a result, he has just lost his chance to form a government as well as to improve his position in negotiations to form a unity government. If there ever had been any chance of Gantz forming a minority government with the outside support of the Joint List, it is now dead and buried thanks to the tone-deaf remarks he made Feb. 11 at a political event in the Arab village of Bi’ina.
“The Joint List won’t be a part of my government,” Gantz declared. “My disagreements with its leadership on national and security matters alone are deep, difficult and irreconcilable.” For emphasis, he reasserted, “The Joint List won’t be a part of my government.”
While the inclusion of the Joint List in a government headed by Gantz would be an unreasonable scenario under any circumstance, that he dared utter such unequivocally in public makes it difficult for Joint List members to recommend him to the president to form the next government. In Gantz’s futile effort to defend against Likud’s campaign, he failed to leave himself a feasible alternative. Some of the most recent polls indicate a slight rise in support for the Joint List, which is hoping to win 16 seats (three more than in the last elections, in September). This is not some imaginary scenario. It could make the center-left — Blue and White with Labor-Gesher-Meretz — a powerful, consolidated bloc bigger than the right wing. Gantz, however, terrified of the Likud campaign, has alienated the Joint List, preferring instead to rely on Avigdor Liberman, chair of Yisrael Beitenu. That will not be enough to get him the requisite 61 seats in any scenario.