Netanyahu rules out unity government with Gantz

Report: Prime minister is considering a shake-up of portfolios.

June 2, 2019 05:22
3 minute read.
Netanyahu rules out unity government with Gantz

Tension was evident between Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the Knesset’s new session on April 30. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to form a right-wing government and not a national unity government with Blue and White if he forms the next coalition after the September 17 repeat election, the Likud said in an official statement on Saturday night.

The party denied a statement by Likud Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Channel 12’s Meet the Press program, in which he called on Gantz to declare his support for a unity government and said he “had no doubt that Netanyahu would agree.”

“Minister Hanegbi spoke for himself,” the Likud said. “The Likud and the prime minister want to form a strong right-wing government, led by a large Likud, under Netanyahu, as the nation chose.”

With Netanyahu ruling out Blue and White and parties to its left and hinting that he would not want a coalition with Yisrael Beytenu, his coalition options would be limited to Shas, United Torah Judaism and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP).

After reports over the weekend about Education Minister Naftali Bennett attempting to build the URP into a larger bloc on the Right, Channel 13 reported that Netanyahu intends to fire Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and give their portfolios to ministers in Likud.

Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to respond to the report, which also said the Immigration and Absorption portfolio would be given to Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and current Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant would be promoted. Gallant is a former general and would be the first general since Moshe Ya’alon to be defense minister if he is promoted to the post.

Elkin is interested in the Education portfolio, but as a Russian-speaker from Ukraine, he could help Likud take votes of immigrants from the former Soviet Union away from Yisrael Beytenu.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Netanyahu continued their mutual recriminations over the weekend. In an interview with Channel 12, Liberman threatened to reveal embarrassing information on Netanyahu and called what Netanyahu has said about him “not Ali Baba stories but Ali Bibi stories.”

More information was revealed over the weekend about the offer Netanyahu made to Labor to join his coalition instead of Yisrael Beytenu before he had the Knesset dissolve itself and initiate an election on Wednesday.
Channel 12 reported that Labor leader Avi Gabbay spent Tuesday night at the Prime Minister’s Residence and negotiated the Finance portfolio for himself, Communications and Culture and Sport for MK Shelly Yacimovich, the Social Equality Ministry for MK Itzik Shmuli, and Tal Rousso would be deputy defense minister under Netanyahu, who would remain defense minister.

Former Labor MK Eitan Cabel responded by saying that “after Gabbay killed Labor, he is generously helping bury the party.”

Gabbay said on Friday that his party would run together with another party in the upcoming election, either with Blue and White, or Meretz.

“The decision needs to taken according to what will increase the camp in its entirety and lead to its victory in the election and not what is best for each party,” Gabbay said at the Berl Katznelson Center’s conference in Tel Aviv. “If Blue and White will be with 35 or 36 and will be in the opposition, it doesn’t change anything if we’ll end up being in the opposition.”

Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg reiterated her call for Labor and Meretz to run together at the conference. But Gabbay’s associates have said he preferred to run with Blue and White.

Blue and White MK Ram Ben Barak said at a cultural event in Kfar Saba on Saturday that he had received a proposal from Netanyahu to be defense minister, vice prime minister and in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. The Likud fiercely denied his claim.

“Recently there is a new phenomenon in which anyone who wants to inflate himself says that he has received some kind of proposal,” the party said. “The words of Ben Barak are a baseless joke, neither Netanyahu nor someone on his behalf offered him anything. A quick check would have revealed that such proposals have no legal feasibility.”

Uri Bollag contributed to this report.

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