Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein summoned the coalition negotiating teams of the Likud and Blue and White parties to separate meetings at his office Wednesday evening, in an effort to mediate an end to the political stalemate.
In the meetings, Edelstein succeeded in persuading the official teams of both parties to meet on Sunday for marathon talks that he hopes will lead to a government by the December 11 deadline, thus preventing a third election in less than a year.
“Everyone knows Israel is in the midst of a governmental emergency that could collapse our economy and society,” Edelstein told reporters outside his office. “This is a moment of truth for Israeli politics. This is the time to choose between leadership and cowardice. This is the time to say enough is enough.”
Edelstein discussed with the teams a compromise by which Netanyahu would remain prime minister for another five to six months, followed by Gantz for two years and then the leader of the Likud for the remaining year and a half.
But Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon wrote on Twitter after meeting with Edelstein that his party would not sit with Netanyahu until he is exonerated in court.
“These talks are nothing but a transparent maneuver of the Likud to shift blame for a third election,” a source in Blue and White said.
Officially, Blue and White responded to Edelstein’s initiative by saying: “We welcome the initiative of the Knesset speaker, as well as any dialogue that can advance a broad unity government led by Blue and White together with Likud that is based on a set of mutual principles. The negotiating team, led by Dr. Yoram Turbowicz and Mr. Shalom Shlomo, is making every effort to prevent an unnecessary and expensive third election.”
The Likud also commented on Edelstein’s words, saying that the party welcomed Edelstein’s attempt to prevent an election and that Netanyahu has instructed the Likud negotiating team to respond promptly to the initiative.
Gantz said on Wednesday that Israel needs to engage in itself and less in its leaders. Speaking during a visit to the Galilee, he called for a unity government in which he would become prime minister first.
“Netanyahu faces a heavy legal challenge,” he said. “And so we do not rule out Netanyahu the man but the indicted Netanyahu. The Likud should join a unity government. I hope Netanyahu is eligible, and can come back in two years.”
Alex Winston and Alon Einhorn contributed to this report.