Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's associates both pushed the possibility of a minority government backed by the Joint List on Saturday in an effort to pressure the other to make concessions that could facilitate a unity coalition.
Gantz met with with President Reuven Rivlin for an hour and a half Saturday night. They discussed his coalition-building efforts ahead of his Wednesday night deadline to form a government before his mandate ends and compromises that could still enable a deal with Likud.Netanyahu told Likud ministers and MKs in an “emergency conversation” on Saturday that he knew for a fact that Blue and White intends to form a minority government backed by the Joint List. He will convene the Likud faction and the right-wing political bloc on Sunday.“We are standing before an emergency situation that we have never had before in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said in the conference call. “Going to a [third] election would be a disaster, but forming a government that is dependent on the Arab parties would be a worse disaster. This would be a historic danger for Israeli security.” Netanyahu accused the Arab MKs of being “supporters of Islamic Jihad and Hamas.” He said he was sure Yisrael Beytenu would be part of such a government.Gantz responded in a Facebook post that Netanyahu losing power was not an emergency.“An emergency is hundreds of missiles falling on the State of Israel,” Gantz wrote. “Netanyahu, internalize it that I will do everything to prevent you from dragging Israel to a third election.”Gantz said Likud should come to coalition talks without its right-wing bloc and “without immunity, tricks and shtick,” adding “what worked for you for 10 years will no longer work now.”Sources close to Gantz confirmed that forming an “acting government” with Yisrael Beytenu and Labor-Gesher, backed from the outside by the Joint List, could be a temporary step en route to a larger coalition, but they hinted that the idea remains political spin aimed at forcing Likud to give up its right-wing bloc.Netanyahu posted a report about the potential “acting government” on Twitter and wrote that a government reliant on MKs who favor putting IDF soldiers on trial is anti-democratic and a “slap in the face of the IDF.”Blue and White number two Yair Lapid responded on Twitter: “Bibi, all you have to do is tell [United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov] Litzman and [National Union chairman Bezalel] Smotrich that you will put the good of the country first and come to direct talks with Blue and White. As long as you don’t do that, all your hysteria is the hypocrisy of a man afraid to lose his job.”There will be coalition talks on Sunday, in which Blue and White will negotiate with Yisrael Beytenu and Labor-Gesher. The Likud has not received an official invitation for coalition negotiations in 10 days. The head of the Likud’s negotiating team, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, said he even checked his phone to see if he missed a call or an invitation to negotiate.Gantz wrote scathing comments against Netanyahu on Friday afternoon, just before Shabbat. He lamented that no progress was made over the past week on forming a unity government with Likud.“Apparently, Netanyahu’s desire to win a few more months on the prime minister’s chair is more important to him than his concerns for the citizens of Israel,” Gantz wrote on Facebook. “The only way to understand Netanyahu’s behavior is that he wants elections.”Gantz called upon the leaders of parties in Netanyahu’s political bloc to free him of his obligation to them and enable him to negotiate directly on a unity government without them. The New Right party issued a statement refusing the request and calling upon Gantz to join a right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu.Rivlin will meet at the beginning of the week with the leaders of Shas, UTJ, Bayit Yehudi and the Joint List, in an effort to prevent a third election. Other party leaders are expected to follow suit.