Likud's, Blue and White's blame game begins before the March 2 elections

Benny Gantz to Benjamin Netanyahu: Give up immunity.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet to discuss possible political frameworks, October 27 2019 (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet to discuss possible political frameworks, October 27 2019
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz both called on each other to negotiate on Monday but sources in both parties admitted that they were merely trying to harm each other ahead of an election that will be set for March 2.
The two parties did agree on the March 2 date for the election. If no government were formed by Wednesday at midnight, an election would be automatically set for March 10, which is Purim, unless a law is passed in advance to set a different date. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein postponed voting on the bill to Wednesday to enable last-ditch efforts to form a government.
The mutual recriminations between Netanyahu and Gantz began when the Blue and White leader called upon the prime minister to promise not to seek immunity from prosecution, saying it could lead to negotiations that could still prevent the election.
“You have already dragged us into elections twice because of immunity, and barricaded yourself in the bloc in order to achieve it,” Gantz said at Blue and White’s faction meeting. “Now you believe that additional elections will afford you the majority with which to achieve immunity. I call upon you to guarantee that you will not ask for immunity. The citizens of Israel deserve to know, before you drag them into another election, what your true intentions are.”
Not only did Netanyahu not take Gantz’s challenge to give up immunity for last ditch coalition talks, he called the offer “hollow spin” and “a transparent maneuver,” and urged Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman to negotiate instead. Netanyahu later issued a final call to the heads of Blue and White to negotiate with him.
“They refused every offer to form a wide unity government,” Netanyahu said. “Now, when there are only two days left, they are demanding conditions merely to talk.”
Liberman rejected Netanyahu’s offer to hold 48 hours of marathon talks on a narrow right-wing coalition of 63 MKs. He reportedly offered Liberman concessions on matters of religion and state, and a rotation as prime minister.
“A narrow government would cause the government broad problems,” Liberman said in a meeting with Likud mayors who urged him to join their party and tried in vain to get him to negotiate with Netanyahu.
KAN reported that Netanyahu told confidants following Liberman’s rejection of his offer that “Liberman will not become more flexible. He decided he does not want me to be prime minister. We are going to elections.”
New Right leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, and Shas chairman Arye Deri also tried to mediate between party heads on Monday in an effort to prevent an election.
If the election is set for March 2, it will be 81 days from the Knesset’s dispersal Wednesday at midnight – a month less than the last one, which took place on September 17.
Gantz’s No. 2, MK Yair Lapid, announced at Monday’s faction meeting that Blue and White will run Gantz as the party’s sole candidate for prime minister if a third election in under a year is held.
Lapid and Gantz made the decision last week and decided to announce it at the faction meeting. They ran as joint candidates for prime minister in the April and September elections.
“We still hope we can prevent elections,” Lapid told the faction. “If there are elections, we’ve decided that this time there won’t be a rotation agreement. We will go together, all of us, a large and united Blue and White behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Lapid said he made the decision to give up on the premiership because “it is what is best for the country,” and that he did not feel he has given something up.
“The rotation and the job aren’t what’s important,” he said. “I didn’t come into politics for a job. I had a far more comfortable job in my previous career [as a journalist]. What’s important is the result of the PISA tests, the collapse of the emergency rooms, and the children in bomb shelters around Gaza.”
Lapid said Blue and White has an important role to play: “Freeing the country from Netanyahu.”