Israeli Arab political parties broke with longstanding precedent Sunday and endorsed ex-military chief Benny Gantz for prime minister following last week’s elections, seeking to keep the president from asking incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government.
The dramatic move came after the mainly Arab Joint List alliance won 13 seats in Tuesday’s polls, making them the third-largest force in the 120-seat parliament.
In announcing the decision, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said the alliance’s decision was not an endorsement of Gantz’s policies but a move to oust Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Netanyahu has repeatedly been accused of political rhetoric and actions amounting to racism toward Israel’s Arab population.
“We have become illegitimate in Israeli politics in the Netanyahu era,” Odeh told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin when informing him of the endorsement.
“We are this time recommending Benny Gantz to form the next government.”
Prominent Arab parliament member Ahmad Tibi said “history is done: We’ll do what is needed to bring down Netanyahu.”
It was the first time that majority Arab parties had endorsed a candidate for prime minister since 1992, when they backed Yitzhak Rabin, who went on to sign the Oslo accords with the Palestinians.