Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuli Edelstein at swearing in of 21st Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein have temporarily paused their effort to cancel the election and form a unity government, but sources close to them declared on Thursday night that the initiative is still not dead.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz ruled out joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition at a Tel Aviv press conference on Wednesday. Without his 35 seats and 20 more on the Center-Left, it would be impossible to obtain the 80 MKs necessary to repeal dispersing the Knesset.
"Only the nation will decide," Netanyahu said at the Israel Hayom Conference in Jerusalem Thursday night. "Let us hope that the politicians do what the people want. That is what normally leads to the best possible government."
Netanyahu joked that he was starting to learn Italian, because Israel was following in the footsteps of Italy, which is known for holding frequent elections.
Netanyahu and Edelstein’s associates expressed cautious optimism that Gantz could change his mind if Blue and White falls in the polls. Labor will hold its leadership race on Tuesday, and the party has received a boost following its primaries in the past.
Former prime minister Ehud Barak’s as yet unnamed new party will also take supporters away from Blue and White, and bounce up in the polls every time a new celebrity recruit to the party is revealed. If those two factors result in Blue and White falling several seats behind Likud in the polls, the unity government and election cancellation initiative will be revisited, Netanyahu’s and Edelstein’s associates said.
“Right now, the chances are low, but there could be something to talk about as circumstances change,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “For us, the possibility is still open. We still want to avoid elections.”
Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post that the initiative was “100%” his own and not Netanyahu’s. He said that there was still a chance for it to succeed.
Sources close to Edelstein revealed that he had been approached by senior people in Blue and White to try to stop the election, and that they had come up with creative ideas. But no meeting has yet been set between Edelstein and Gantz to discuss the matter.
“We aren’t killing it yet,” an Edelstein associate said. “We are still giving it a few more days. It would be a mistake for Blue and White to reject it. I hope they will get smart.”
Interior Minister Arye Deri (Shas) told Army Radio that he would do everything possible to cancel the election, but he saw none of the necessary legal procedures being done by either Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit or Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon to prepare for such a move.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s associates said that the prime minister would appoint a new communications minister at the beginning of next week in place of Ayoub Kara (Likud), who stepped down on Monday. The candidate with the best chance of receiving the post is fellow Likud member MK David Amsalem, who is close to Netanyahu.
But another possibility is that the portfolio could be given to outgoing Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who abdicated the Science and Technology Ministry when he left for New York. Danon could also be a logical candidate for the Diaspora Affairs Ministry vacated by fired minister Naftali Bennett.
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