Something’s gotta give

Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had not reached an agreement or taken any steps toward building a coalition together.

By
September 26, 2019 22:37
3 minute read.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a nomination ceremony a

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a nomination ceremony at the President's residency in Jerusalem September 25, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS)

President Reuven Rivlin expressed disappointment on Wednesday night when he tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the next government. Not necessarily because it was Netanyahu – though their relationship has known better days – but because everything was still so up in the air.

Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had not reached an agreement or taken any steps toward building a coalition together.

“The purpose of the law is to bring about the formation of a government as quickly as possible – and therefore, the decision of who to task with the job of forming the government depends on who has the highest chance of successfully forming a government,” Rivlin said. He then explained that not only does Netanyahu have 55 recommendations to Gantz’s 54, but that 10 of Gantz’s recommenders won’t sit in his government. So in effect, Netanyahu has 11 more recommendations.

But Rivlin also pointed out that 55 is not 61, and just because he gave Netanyahu the job of putting a coalition together, doesn’t mean that Netanyahu can do it.

“This decision does not remove the responsibility on both of the candidates, along with all of the factions, to create the conditions by which this political dead-end can be resolved,” Rivlin said. “The keys to building the government of Israel are in the hands of all of the public representatives of all the parties.

“It doesn’t matter who I task first with forming the government – and if I have to, and if it is the right thing to do, who I task with the mission second. [Because] as long as the disqualifications and boycotts of entire populations in Israeli society don’t stop; as long as there is no motivation to create new alliances between large and small parties; as long as there is no real will to reach agreements, to compromise – there will not be a government,” the president stated.

Ironically, both candidates followed up Rivlin’s statement by talking about how much they want unity.
“The necessity of this time is a broad national unity government,” Netanyahu said in his remarks at The President’s Residence.

“Unity is not an impediment but rather a desirable aspiration necessary to unite the divisions in our country and to establish a stable government capable of correcting the serious problems affecting Israeli society,” Gantz said.

But saying they want unity is not enough. The sides seem to not realize that, as Rivlin said, unity cannot happen unless they make a real effort.

Likud took a baby step in admitting that a unity coalition is likely the only solution for this riddle, despite railing against the option in its election campaign. But Blue and White reasonably feels that Likud is not negotiating fairly by representing the entire right-wing bloc as opposed to only itself. Gantz’s team argues that the only thing Likud is offering is a right-wing party with a Blue and White appendix tacked on.

But Blue and White has not been negotiating in good faith either. Their negotiators stood up Netanyahu’s team, led by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, twice yesterday. They refuse to be in any government with Netanyahu as long as his legal woes still stand, even though it very clearly is not their job to choose another party’s leader. And between Israeli Arabs, haredim and religious-Zionists, they have ruled out the parties representing about a third of Israel’s population.

Since a government without Netanyahu and without haredim were Blue and White’s two main campaign promises, their reticence is understandable. But they need to wake up and realize that the election results don’t allow for their political purity tests.

A third election would be disastrous for this country. It would be dirty and costly to our society, our economy and our standing in the world.

Therefore, something has got to give. The Israeli phrase for negotiations translates literally to “give and take,” and that is what Blue and White and Likud need to do now. At least one side has to back down on one of its positions; better if both do.

Because, as Rivlin said, “as long as there is no real will to reach agreements, to compromise, there will not be a government.”


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