After Gantz Moves to Join Netanyahu's Government, His Party Officially Splits

Knesset approves Yesh Atid and Telem's split from Kahol Lavan, while some lawmakers switch factions over unity talks

Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenzi shake hands as Moshe Ya'alon gestures during a Kahol Lavan meeting in Tel Aviv, January 8, 2020.
Moti Milrod

The Kahol Lavan party formally split on Sunday, as the Knesset approved the departure of the Yesh Atid and Telem factions following party leader Benny Gantz’s decision to join a unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee ruled that Hosen L’Yisrael, the party founded by Gantz before entering the partnership with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Telem’s Moshe Ya’alon, would retain the name Kahol Lavan. It also approved a request by Telem’s Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser to quit the party and form an independent faction called Derech Eretz, which will function within Gantz’s faction. 

Other lawmakers also made moves to switch parties: Pnina Tamano-Shata of Yesh Atid decided to join Kahol Lavan. Gadeer Mreeh from Hosen L’Yisrael said she would find it difficult to join a coalition headed by Netanyahu, and decided to move to Yesh Atid. 

Legally speaking, a lawmaker faces three sanctions for quitting a faction to join another: They may not be made a minister; they cannot run in the next election as part of an existing party, but only as part of a new party; and they cannot receive party funding.

Kahol Lavan consisted of three factions: Hosen L’Yisrael, which won 15 Knesset seats in this month’s election; Yesh Atid, with 13 seats; and Telem, which would have had three seats left after the departure of Hendel and Hauser. Ya’alon and the remaining members of Telem joined with Yesh Atid on Sunday for a joint faction made up of 16 lawmakers. 

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz has been mulling joining a Netanyahu-led government, as long as it pursues a meaningful socioeconomic agenda. MK Merav Michaeli, his party colleague, has been trying to torpedo such a move, convening an emergency meeting Sunday calling on Peretz not to join Netanyahu. The meeting, held via video call, included former ministers and MKs from the party, as well as dozens of activists.