AS coalition talks flounder, Israelis are girding their strength for a possible third election.
The top two parties both say that given the razor close election results they want a unity government, but each say that the other is preventing it from happening –and dragging the country towards another ballot.
Benny Gantz’s Blue and White is accusing Likud of acting with the “sole aim of generating support in preparation for dragging Israel into another round of elections at the behest of Netanyahu”.
Just before press time, it pulled the plug on a planned meting with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, where unity negotiations were meant to continue. Likud’s Miri Regev responded by saying it’s actually Blue and White that is forcing new elections.
Avigdor Lieberman, the so-called kingmaker of the election – as his Israel Beytenu has the power to make or break any coalition – is telling both parties that they risk infuriating the nation. “Citizens of Israel will not forgive you if you lead us to another election just because of the issues of personnel and ego,” he said.
Lieberman warned: “Another election will not lead to a different result, but to a national and economic disaster that will be attributed to you.”
President Reuven Rivlin has given Netanyahu the first chance to form a government, while emphasising that he wants to see a unity government with both Likud and Blue and White. Likud took up the challenge – but Gantz says that it hasn’t treated the process seriously.
As The AJN went to press, Netanyahu was due to begin a pre-indictment hearing for the corruption charges against him – a process that could intensify the PM’s legal woes. Gantz says that he won’t go into a coalition with a leader under indictment.
His team has been pushing Likud to choose a new leader, but Likud refuses to discuss this, and its politicians have signed a loyalty pledge to stick with Netanyahu. Gantz’s staff are also livid about a deal that Likud has made with other right-wing parties to negotiate as a bloc.
This would mean that Blue and White – which promised voters a secular government – would be negotiating a package deal with Likud and three right-leaning Orthodox parties.
The parties are accusing each other of failing to serve citizens. Blue and White argued: “The State of Israel needs a broad, stable and liberal unity government under the leadership of Benny Gantz.” Regev said: “Fulfilling dreams is something else, but for now we have a country to manage.”
If Netanyahu fails to build a coalition, Rivlin is expected to give Gantz an opportunity, but in view of the election results, he would face a hard time securing the 61-seat Knesset majority needed to pull it off. If Gantz failed, a new election would be likely.