Netanyahu to Gantz: Gov't with Arab list 'slap in face' of IDF soldiers
"There is one other government that must not be established, and this is a minority government that includes the Arab parties," the prime minister said.
By LAHAV HARKOV
Forming a minority coalition with the Joint List would be a slap in the face to IDF soldiers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a message to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, during his address on Monday to a conference held by the Makor Rishon weekly.Netanyahu called on Gantz to drop the “insane” and “dangerous” idea and to form a national unity government with Likud instead.“Benny, you were the [IDF] chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu recounted. “We ran that operation together. We sent soldiers into battle. Do you remember what [Joint List MK Ahmad] Tibi did during the operation? He read the names of terrorists killed in Gaza from the stage of the Knesset. He said that the IDF is committing war crimes…In a campaign video, they said ‘Gantz, there is blood on your hands.’”Blue and White is considering building a minority coalition of 44 or 52 seats, with outside support from the Joint List. However the faction is divided, with its MKs on the Right opposing the move because the Joint List is an anti-Zionist party.Netanyahu said a government that depends on Tibi and Joint List leader Ayman Odeh is a “slap in the face of the IDF soldiers who we sent into battle together. Those are the people with whom you want to form a government?... It’s unbelievable,” Netanyahu said, calling the idea “insane” and saying the Joint List “doesn’t recognize the state’s right to exist.”In the same vein, Netanyahu later responded to a remark by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman that there is no greater disaster than a third election in less than a year: “There is a greater disaster, and it is a minority government that is dependent on the Arab parties.”Blue and White’s spokesman responded: “Netanyahu, we don’t need lessons from you in patriotism and loving the nation and the people. The citizens of Israel will not forgive you if you drag us to another expensive and unnecessary election because of your legal situation.”AdvertisementTibi called Netanyahu “Mr. Pinocchio,” accusing him of incitement, and said that he read the names of women and children killed in the operation.Earlier on Monday Gantz also called for a unity government, and said Blue and White is willing to compromise.Gantz and Liberman plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a unity government, which he hoped “will repair and not rejoice in the rifts in our country.”Liberman made an ultimatum to Gantz and Netanyahu on Saturday night, saying that Netanyahu must give up on the 55-seat religious-right bloc, and Gantz must agree for Netanyahu to be first in a rotation for the premiership and form a unity government. If one side refuses to compromise, then Liberman will support the other, and Liberman has not ruled out the option of a minority government with Joint List support.Gantz said that Blue and White is “prepared to consider certain compromises provided they are in line with our perspectives of our world and are in service to the State of Israel.”The Blue and White leader said Netanyahu has refused to discuss the fundamental issues for almost a month.“Let us finally establish direct and sincere negotiations between Likud and Blue and White,” Gantz stated. “Let us talk frankly about what interests Israeli citizens – and not just what interests you. This is the time, and this what Israeli citizens expect from both of us. And they will not forgive us if we do not do it.”In Yisrael Beytenu’s faction meeting, Liberman suggested that Gantz and Netanyahu “flip a coin” to resolve their disputes about a rotation for the premiership. “Everyone has to contribute a bit” to make it work he said.Once Likud and Blue and White come up with the basic outline for a unity government, Liberman said that he would be fine with any party joining, but he then immediately went on to disparage the members of the right-wing bloc.“There is no connection between the messianic haredim [ultra-Orthodox] and the Right,” Liberman said. “Shas and [its leader Arye] Deri abstained in the vote on the Oslo Accords... Netanyahu gave Hebron to [PLO leader Yasser] Arafat... he apologized to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, he opposed the death penalty for terrorists, he voted in favor of evacuating Jews from Gaza.”Liberman plans to meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday to discuss the details of the “president’s plan,” which Rivlin described in September as having Netanyahu be first in a rotation agreement with Gantz, and that Gantz would fill a new deputy prime minister role that has the same status as a prime minister. When they flip roles, Netanyahu would be able to remain in the cabinet even if he was already indicted, unlike other cabinet ministers who are legally required to resign upon indictment.Ahead of the meeting, United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman wrote a letter to Rivlin asking him to discourage Liberman from inciting against haredim.“The recent elections... have unfortunately led to divisions and polarization and the spread of hatred,” Litzman wrote. “We are one nation and we must respect one another... Even if there are disputes, we cannot disqualify whole populations and try to exclude them from Israeli public affairs... Haredi and religious parties make up almost a million-and-a-half people who are being disqualified and insulted by politicians for no reason.”An Army Radio poll released on Monday showed that 52% of Blue and White voters are in favor of forming a minority coalition formed with support from the Joint List, while 44% are against.The vast majority of Likud voters (83%) opposed the scenario, with only 7% being in favor.Among all respondents, 59% opposed cooperation with the Joint List as opposed to 34% who were for it.As for who should be prime minister, 44% prefer that Netanyahu continue in the role, whereas 39% favored Gantz.Alon Einhorn contributed to this report.