Israel

Blue and White co-leaders concede defeat in Israel’s elections

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The leaders of the Blue and White party conceded defeat to Likud and said they would keep their coalition together in preparation for the next election.

Party co-leader Yair Lapid, who brought his Yesh Atid into Blue and White, said in a speech Wednesday night that his newly formed party “will make Likud’s life hell from the opposition.”

“We are not just going to the opposition, we are going to get ready for the next round,” Lapid said. “We did not come here to end the 2019 campaign. We came to open the 2020 campaign.”

The next election is officially scheduled for 2023, but new elections can be called at any time.

Lapid said that he and Benny Gantz, another party leader — along with Moshe Yaalon and Gabi Ashkenazi, who make up more of the party’s leadership — will “stand together” going forward. Gantz recently entered politics after serving as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces for four years, stepping down in 2015. Yaalon and Ashkenazi are also previous IDF chiefs of staff.

“They will try to break us up. They won’t,” Lapid said.

Gantz did not officially concede to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party garnered the same number of Knesset seats as Blue and White, but whose right-wing bloc likely will give the longtime incumbent enough seats to form the next government. He said that “we respect the people’s decision and we’ll respect the president’s decision.”

President Reuven Rivlin is tasked with choosing which party leader will try to form a government.

Gantz added: “This is my first day of the next decade of service to Israeli society in any way I can, and with all my strength. When we see a person and we serve them, we will not ask for whom did you vote.”

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