Israeli ministers to run as partners in upcoming elections

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JERUSALEM (AP) — The leaders of two parties in Israel's outgoing government coalition announced Sunday that they would run as political partners in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The announcement by Gideon Saar and Benny Gantz was the first shift in Israel's political landscape since the Knesset voted to dissolve itself June 30 and send the country back to the polls to elect a new parliament.

Israel will hold its fifth elections in under four years in November after the government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett collapsed last month. The previous four elections were largely referendums on longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu's fitness to serve as prime minister while under indictment for corruption.

Gantz, a former army chief of staff, heads the centrist Blue and White party and serves as Israel's defense minister. Saar is a former member of the once-dominant Likud party who broke ranks and formed his hawkish New Hope party. He is currently justice minister.

Both were key members of the alliance of eight diverse parties that joined forces last year to oust Netanyahu after 12 years in office.

Gantz said that the two parties were joining forces in order to provide voters with a strong centrist option to help end the country’s protracted political crisis.

“Today, we are laying the foundation of the next government,” he said.

Saar said the aim was to break the political deadlock and form “a broad national unity government that is not dependent upon the fringes.” He said that Gantz was best suited to lead as prime minister.