Rivlin: Public wants a stable gov’t

Members of the Joint List decided to recommend Gantz to build a coalition. This will be the first time since Yitzhak Rabin that an Arab party recommends someone for Prime Minister.

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September 23, 2019 00:18
4 minute read.
President Rivlin with members of Blue and White

President Rivlin with members of Blue and White. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The President’s Residence became a journalists’ playground on Sunday evening as camera crews, photographers and reporters crowded into a small area adjacent to the main reception hall. The area, once a patio, was enclosed during the presidential term of Moshe Katsav – one of the few ministers from Shimon Peres’s and Yitzhak Shamir’s national unity government who are still living.

The media gathered well before the delegations of Knesset parties who would come to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and share who they recommend to form the next government.

This time, there were far more media representatives than in April.

Prior to the arrival of the delegations, print journalists were presented with handsome presidential pens in faux suede casing – the same are given to dignitaries who sign the presidential guest book.

Video cameras were trained in advance on the small reception room in which the meetings with the delegations took place.
As the first delegation entered the presidential compound, television crews and stills photographers scrambled alongside the red carpet leading into the building to capture what might become an historic shot.

The delegations entered in accordance with the number of mandates each party had received, starting with Blue and White. The delegation, headed by MK Moshe Ya’alon, sat down on one side of the table, waiting for Rivlin.

Inside, Rivlin explained the procedure to each delegation, emphasizing the need to form a government as quickly as possible.
Blue and White – while agreeing to abide by Rivlin’s decision – said the election results proved the public wants change. Rivlin, the most experienced politician at the table, said that what the public wants is a stable government.

Ya’alon appeared to be the most intransigent, pointing out that three former chiefs of staff and three former ministers know what to do with Iran.

When the delegation emerged to speak to the media, Ya’alon reiterated that Blue and White had a clear victory and that Benny Gantz was the right person to lead the State of Israel and eliminate hatred and incitement

There were several foreign journalists present who do not understand Hebrew. A Blue and White spokesman had promised a statement in English, but despite requests from the floor, it was not forthcoming, even though Ya’alon is fluent.

The second delegation was Likud – Rivlin’s party before he became president – and his tone with his own people in a sense was less conciliatory.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who led the Likud delegation, said that it was obligatory to do everything possible to form a government. Likud would prefer the coalition that it had in the outgoing government, but if that wasn’t an option, then Likud was prepared for a national unity government. What he was at a loss to understand was why Gantz, who is willing to meet with Israel’s enemies, is not willing to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu. If you want to reach agreement, he said, you have to negotiate.
Levin said he does not know of any other democracy in which one side refuses to meet with the leader of the other, and that it is unacceptable for the other side to tell Likud who its leader should be.

Rivlin said that he believes that there should be as broad a coalition as possible.

Though couching his words in a diplomatic style, the most important question Rivlin had was whether the Likud candidate – if tasked with forming a government – would return the mandate if he failed.

Rivlin had more patience for the Joint List, led by Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, saying that he had known Tibi since he was a student at the Hebrew University. Members of the delegation complained about how Netanyahu has systematically worked to delegitimize the Arab sector and has incited against them.

“We are indigenous, not migrants,” Tibi said. “We did not come to this land – we were born here.”

Joint List members made it clear that they were not recommending Gantz because they believe in him, but because he is the lesser of two evils and they want to use every resource at their disposal to get rid of Netanyahu.

They also warned that if state authorities do not address violence in Arab villages, that the issue will spread to the rest of the country. There have already been 66 deaths in 2019 resulting from violence in Arab villages, but there has not been enough effort by law enforcement to deal with the situation, they said.

Odeh said afterwards that they were keeping their promise to their electorate to bring an end to the Netanyahu era.
“We simply want to live in peace and to create a new reality,” Odeh said.

Although the Joint List recommended Gantz, it will vote against a national unity government, which almost makes their recommendation worthless.

After the Arab delegation left, so did most of the media, knowing in advance who Shas would recommend. But it was important to stay and listen to the pain they felt when Blue and White announced in its campaign that it would not join a coalition with the religious parties.

The decision by Yisrael Beytenu not to recommend anyone more or less sealed the fate of a national unity government.


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