JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior member of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White party resigned Tuesday, pushing the once-formidable movement farther toward collapse ahead of March elections.
The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, dissolved last week after the government failed to pass a national budget for 2020 amid bitter coalition disputes between its two main partners, the Likud and Blue and White. Israel now heads to its fourth national election since March 2019 while facing a runaway coronavirus outbreak, a devastating economic crisis, and a prime minister on trial for corruption.
Avi Nissenkorn, a former labor union leader who served as Israel’s justice minister in Gantz’s party, said he was breaking away to join a new party with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
Huldai, a popular figure with Israel's secular left wing, was expected to announced the launch of his new party later Tuesday.
“We will bring good news to hundreds of thousands of Israelis who feel that they don't have a political home — and we will do this with actions and not words,” Nissenkorn said.
Blue and White, which fought Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to a draw in three consecutive elections, is now disintegrating after several key party members have broken away.
Blue and White said Gantz asked Nissenkorn to tender his resignation as justice minister after he had “chosen his new political home.”
Earlier this week, Blue and White lawmakers Assaf Zamir and Miki Haimovich also jumped ship.
Blue and White held 17 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, but is now polling in the single digits in the run-up to the March 23 election.