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HaMahane HaMamlachti (The National Unity Party)

In July 2022, the Blue and White Party of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the New Hope Party of Justice Minister Gideon Sa`ar agreed to merge. As a result, Gantz went from a party polling in the single digits to one that makes him a contender to become prime minister. The new party is HaMahane HaMamlachti (The National Unity Party).

“Today, we are laying the foundation stone of the next government,” Gantz said. “The edges and extremes have set the tone for too long, and the Israeli center remained without a voice.” Gantz planned to establish a “responsible, realistic, secure, and liberal” government. Such a coalition, he added, will “say no to racism, no to extremism, and yes to unity for all parts of the country and all types of citizens… ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, secular; Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Jews.” Gantz added that voters “shouldn’t have to pick from the extremes.”

Sa’ar described the joint venture as the embodiment of the “stately right and security center.”

One reason for the merger was the belief that Benjamin Netanyahu would defeat Yair Lapid. The new party hopes to attract votes from the center-right who would not vote for either man. They also are more open to a coalition with the religious parties who despise Lapid. While Sa’ar and Gantz remain critical of Netanyahu, they did not rule out a partnership with him.

New Hope will reportedly receive about a third of the joint party’s seats versus two-thirds for Blue and White, with Gantz and Sa’ar leading the list.

After weeks of anticipation, former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot joined the party in August and will be third on the list. Along with him came Matan Kahana, who was the Religious Affairs Minister in the previous government and defected from the crumbling Yamina Party, as did MK Shirly Pinto, the Knesset’s first deaf member.

On October 12, 2023, Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas and the onset of the Iron Swords War, the National Unity Party agreed to join Netanyahu’s government to form an emergency unity government to spearhead the war efforts. This coalition was formed despite the political animosity between Netanyahu and Gantz. However, disagreements between the two leaders on how to manage the war and its objectives became increasingly public, highlighting the prevailing tensions within the government.

In March 2024, Sa’ar announced the breakup of the New Hope Party from the National Unity Party, demanding to be included in the war cabinet, which was making the decisions about prosecuting the war with Hamas and, he said, was not reflecting his views. 

On June 9, 2024, National Unity Party chairman, Benny Gantz, announced his and his party’s departure from the government, leaving Benjamin Netanyahu’s government with a slim majority in the Knesset. Gantz accused Netanyahu of preventing a genuine victory, which he believes could only be achieved through a combination of military, political, and diplomatic means. He emphasized that a genuine victory prioritizes the return of hostages, combines military success with political and diplomatic initiatives, leads to the collapse of Hamas, returns residents of the north home safely, establishes a regional alliance against Iran, and changes national priorities. 

Sources: “Blue and White, New Hope announce union, will run as joint slate in November vote,” Times of Israel, (July 10, 2022).
Eliav Breuer and Roman Meitav, “Gantz and Sa’ar sign political merger in bid to take votes from Lapid,” Jerusalem Post, (July 11, 2022).
Ben Caspit, “Israeli premiership with party merger,” Al-Monitor, (July 12, 2022).
Carrie Keller-Lynn, “Ex-IDF chief Eisenkot, former Yamina minister Kahana join Gantz-led ‘National Unity,’” Times of Israel, (August 14, 2022).
“Israel's parliament approves national unity government,” Reuters, (October 12, 2022).
Sam Sokol, “Gideon Sa’ar announces breakup of National Unity alliance with Gantz, demands seat on war cabinet,” Times of Israel, (March 12, 2024).
“Benny Gantz quits gov't,” Globes, (June 9, 2024).