No agreement reached during Netanyahu, Gantz talks as third election looms
No agreement was reached Tuesday night between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, who finished coalition talks at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tel Aviv after only 45 minutes, and eight days before next Wednesday night’s deadline to form a government.
The Likud complained after the meeting, which Netanyahu initiated, that Gantz did not permit Netanyahu to go first as prime minister even for a short period of time.
“In order to avoid an unnecessary election, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to pass creative legislation that would set rules for the rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office that would prevent either side from violating them.”
The Likud said that “despite our significant concessions, Blue and White continues to prevent a unity government.” The party blamed Gantz’s No. 2, Yair Lapid, for Gantz not compromising.
In a statement after the meeting, Blue and White claimed that Netanyahu did not present “any new proposal that is commensurate with his current legal situation or election loss, or any new offer at all for that matter.”
Blue and White said the prime minister also “refused to commit to fundamental principles of government or to avoid pursuing personal immunity. In short, Netanyahu has chosen an election. Nevertheless we will continue until the last moment to try and exhaust every opportunity to form a government of partnership and unity – words that are apparently foreign to Netanyahu.”
The Likud responded to Gantz that immunity was not even raised in the meeting, and that Gantz was just looking for excuses to prevent a unity government. Blue and White countered by saying that Likud’s statement was ready the moment the meeting ended, which proved that Netanyahu had no intention of conducting sincere negotiations with Gantz.
Channel 12 reported that if a third election is held this year, the Likud’s campaign would focus on immunity for Netanyahu. Blue and White mocked the report on Twitter. The party asked if voters were surprised. Gantz tweeted that unlike his party’s slogan “Israel before everything,” Netanyahu puts immunity before everything.
Earlier Tuesday, Blue and White officials said their negotiating team would not meet again with Likud until they were ready for Gantz to go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Likud responded that while Netanyahu has conceded in agreeing to serve for only five months, Blue and White had not conceded on anything.
Gantz has said that instead of Netanyahu going first as prime minister, he could be vice prime minister, and laws could be passed enabling him to deal with his legal situation.
Next Wednesday is the last day for an MK to draft the support of 61 MKs and avoid a third election in under a year.
Yisrael Beytenu leader – and possible coalition kingmaker – Avigdor Liberman appeared to reconsider the formation of a right-wing government on Tuesday.
“I don’t know what is worse: a narrow government or an election,” Liberman told the Knesset Channel.
Yisrael Beytenu MKs Oded Forer and Hamad Amar approached Liberman earlier on Tuesday and told him they favored a right-wing government. Forer was apparently angry at Blue and White for conceding to United Torah Judaism MKs at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Liberman had reiterated his opposition to a narrow government on either the Right or Left on Monday, before speaking differently on Tuesday.