Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn announced on Tuesday that he is leaving the Blue&White party and joining the new party of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Huldai plans to announce the formation of his party on Tuesday, well ahead of the Knesset elections.
“We will bring good news to hundreds of thousands of Israelis who feel they have no political home – and we will do so by deeds and not by words,” Huldai said.
Nissenkorn, the former chairman of the Histadrut labor union, was one of the founders of Benny Gantz’s Resilience for Israel which turned into Blue&White in a marriage with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and which split apart following Gantz’s coalition agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Presumably, Nissenkorn has concluded that Gantz wanted to cripple his position in Blue&White after Gantz had consented to relinquish many of the powers of the Justice Minister in exchange for passing an amendment to the law that would cancel the automatic new election in case the state budget does not pass on time – which was a last-ditch attempt on Gantz’s part to keep alive the rotation of the prime minister’s job.
Since then, lots of water flowed down the Yarkon River, the government has fallen, the Knesset has dispersed, and Nisskorn has begun a search for a more promising vehicle to get him into the Knesset in the coming election. Meanwhile, it’s expected that if Nissenkorn does not hurry up and announce his resignation from the post of Justice Minister, Gantz will do it for him today.
Under the coalition agreement, Gantz has the authority to fire ministers from his Blue&White faction.
Nissenkorn’s defection to the ranks of Huldai’s party creates an existential problem for Blue&White, which seeks to present the preservation of Israel’s justice system as one of its key achievements in government. A source in Blue&White told Maariv bitterly on Tuesday: “Nissenkorn is an ungrateful man. He made political capital, then just took care of his own seat and escaped.”
Many are escaping, apparently. Gantz has already said goodbye to the MKs from the Derech Eretz faction, Yoaz Handel and Zvi Hauser, who were part of the Blue&White bloc, and have joined Gideon Saar’s New Hope party. And there are many more: two Blue&White rebels who voted in favor of the dispersal – against the position of faction chairman Gantz – Assaf Zamir and Miki Haimovich, have already met with Gantz who informed them they would not be included in his slate. Gantz is expected to announce that MK Ram Shefa, another rebel, won’t be in either.
Now Israeli political junkies are eagerly awaiting Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s decision: will he maintain his loyalty to Gantz or will he also flee from the sinking Blue&White ship and possibly follow in Nissenkorn’s footsteps into Huldai’s party.
In the polls, the Blue&White party is falling toward the wrong side of the threshold percentage of 3.25% of the votes.
The Labor Party, also a tormented and shattered political relic, has invited Nissenkorn to join and perhaps even become its new chairman, but Nissenkorn, who was not born yesterday, refused. Incidentally, both Nissenkorn and Huldai were originally members of the historic Labor Party.
The deadline for submitting party slates to the Central Election Commission is February 4, 2021. Huldai will have to determine his list of candidates of his party and reach agreements with other parties before that date. He will probably remain in his post as mayor of Tel Aviv until he is sworn in as a Knesset member if he is elected.
Ofer Shelach, who last week announced his retirement from Yesh Atid and established a new leftwing party, could be a strong partner on the slate headed by Huldai and Nissenkorn. All three represent the historic Ashkenazi left, and Shelach, who so far gets less than one percent in the polls, would do well to join with his ideological allies.
Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar (Likud), tweeted on Tuesday: “Nissenkorn and Huldai are the perfect combination for the Israeli left. They give rightwing voters all the reasons why everyone must vote for the Likud!”
Tzipi Livni is also apparently planning to return to political life in one of the leftwing parties. And so it goes.