Imploring Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party to join the Likud in a national unity government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Saturday night to rotate as prime minister and to leave the role at the agreed transition date without "any shticks or tricks." Netanyahu claimed in an interview on Channel 12 that the Likud and Blue and White had completed negotiations for what a national unity government would look like, and under which he would serve first as prime minister and would then be replaced by Gantz.
"I will leave office on the agreed date," Netanyahu said in a message to Gantz. "There will be no shticks and tricks. Millions of Israelis are waiting for us."Gantz denied that a deal had been reached, saying: "Those who want unity do not work with ultimatums and harmful leaks and certainly do not try to hurt our democracy and citizens by paralyzing the Knesset."
Netanyahu said that the deal was waiting to be signed, but a move to replace Yuli Edelstein as Knesset Speaker would prevent the agreement. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Sunday that Edelstein must enable the formation of committees and a vote for who should be speaker when the Knesset reconvenes on Monday.
According to details of the proposed deal, Likud would start out with the posts of prime minister, finance minister and Knesset speaker, and Blue and White would start with a deputy prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister and then switch after a year and a half. The Justice portfolio would be filled in an agreement by either an outsider or a minister and a deputy from each party.
Netanyahu blamed Gantz's number two in Blue and White, Yair Lapid, for holding up the signing of the deal. If Lapid continues to refuse to the enter the government, Blue and White would be left with only the MKs from Gantz's Israel Resilience Party, part of MK Moshe Ya'alon's Telem Party and none of the MKs from Lapid's Yesh Atid Party.
While attempts are being made to organize a meeting between Netanyahu and Gantz, his initial response to Netanyahu's offer was negative.
Lapid accused Netanyahu of lying and said that there was no such agreement.
The four members of Blue and White's leadership cockpit met on Friday and said they would still seek a national unity government led by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, but just in case that is not possible, they are also considering other alternatives and options.
Sources in the party said after the meeting that it would not be splitting and that reports to the contrary must have come from the Likud.
"They are united, but they considered all options for forming a government and that means all of them," a source in the party said.
In a Facebook message he posted on Friday afternoon, Gantz said: "Since I received the mandate [to form a government] I am working, exactly as I promised, to form a wide, stable and statesmanlike government that will know how to deal with the great challenge before us."
The members of the cockpit agreed to continue fighting for the formation of Knesset committees so that the legislative branch could begin helping Israelis deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"There will not be a government if there will not be a functional Knesset, as is needed in a democracy," Gantz wrote on Facebook. "In a democratic regime, the legislature cannot be paralyzed and prevented from expressing the will and the votes of the citizens. Anyone who thinks he can advance us to a dangerous borderline dictatorship is mistaken."
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman warned over the weekend against letting Netanyahu "become Mao Zedong."Mao founded the People's Republic of China in 1949 and ruled it as a single-party state until his death in 1976.