Lapid, Likud meet kingmaker Abbas in effort to draft coalition

Benny Gantz does not endorse Yair Lapid in long-awaited meeting • Likud MK Ayoub Kara to 'Post': I am sure PM Benjamin Netanyahu will form next government

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Ra'am (United Arab List) head Mansour Abbas, who holds the key to the formation of the next government, met on Saturday with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Likud MK Ayoub Kara, as both sides attempted to woo him in order to build a coalition.
Kara told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting that he was now sure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would form the next government. But Netanyahu's associates said the prime minister neither sent Kara to Abbas, nor used him to relay any messages.
"The pragmatic camp in the Arab sector led by Mansour must be embraced and not shunned with harmful statements," Kara said, referring to those in Likud and its allies in the Religious Zionist Party who have vetoed a coalition backed by Ra'am.
Netanyahu's political camp has 59 seats, including Yamina, without Ra'am, two short of a majority. The so-called "change camp" would have a majority of 61 MKs with Ra'am and without Yamina.
Lapid continued his efforts over the weekend to draft 61 recommendations to President Reuven Rivlin to give him the mandate to form the government. To that end, he met on Saturday night with his former political ally, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, for the first time since their alliance ended more than a year ago. He will meet this week with Joint List heads Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, but Balad head Sami Abu-Shehadeh, the third leader of the Joint List, is expected to pass a proposal in the Balad Council on Monday to not support any candidate for prime minister. 
Gantz did not agree to automatically endorse Lapid to Rivlin, as Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, Labor leader Merav Michaeli and Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz have. The Blue and White leader has been talked about as a compromise candidate to form a government.
"As we have previously said, we will be recommending the party leader from the 'pro-change block' with the most mandates as the candidate for forming the government," Liberman wrote in a Facebook post.
Liberman addressed the complex political situation that Israel has found itself in - having held four rounds of elections within two years - blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for reaching this point. This situation "is the direct result of the political survival plan of one person - Benjamin Netanyahu, who has failed for the fourth time now to establish a stable and functional government," he wrote.
"Any person who cares about this country, would have reached the right conclusion a long time ago and would have handed over the reins to someone else," he added.
Referring to Netanyahu's ongoing criminal trial, Liberman promised voters that following the inauguration of the 24th Knesset, his party would submit a bill that would force a prime minister with a pending indictment to submit their resignation. Liberman noted that in 2008 such a bill had passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset with the support of the Likud and Netanyahu, as well as the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties.
He also said that his party would submit a bill for limiting the tenure of a serving prime minister to two terms only, a bill that Netanyahu has supported in the past as well.
Finally, Liberman called on all political parties that have aligned themselves in the "pro-change block" to put their egos aside and prevent a fifth round of elections, which currently seems like the most likely outcome.
"Overcoming this political entanglement will happen by finding creative solutions and thinking outside the box," Liberman concluded.  
Also expressing a desire for change, New Hope head Gideon Sa'ar tweeted o Friday that  "for the fourth time in two years Netanyahu has failed to achieve a majority of 61 in the Knesset.
"Without Netanyahu, it is possible to quickly and easily form a government. If Israel is more important to Netanyahu than his continued hold on control, he must finally conclude the patriotic conclusion. I call on Netanyahu: move aside, free Israel and allow the country to move forward."
Lapid retweeted Sa'ar's message, adding "listen to Gideon."  
The Likud denied a Channel 12 report on Friday that Netanyahu offered Sa'ar a rotation in which, if Sa'ar joins his government , Netanyahu would be prime minister for a year and then Sa'ar would take over. 
Sa'ar spoke twice over the weekend with Yamina head Naftali Bennett, who is strongly against joining a Lapid-led government. Bennett said on Friday that he had spoken since the election with the heads of Labor, Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Likud, the Religious Zionist Party, New Hope, Yesh Atid, Blue and White, Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu.
In the talks, Bennett emphasized the need to "act responsibly to bring Israel out of chaos."