Likud, Blue and White accept Rivlin compromise as basis for talks

Coalition negotiations set to begin Friday in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands on stage with wife Sara at Likud's New Years Toast, September 26 2019 (photo credit: SHARON REVIVO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands on stage with wife Sara at Likud's New Years Toast, September 26 2019
(photo credit: SHARON REVIVO)
Coalition negotiating teams from Likud and Blue and White will officially begin talks on forming a new government on Friday morning, amid low expectations on both sides.
But in what could be a sign of hope, well-placed sources in both Likud and Blue and White spoke favorably on Thursday about a compromise idea presented by President Reuven Rivlin as a basis for negotiations.
Rivlin’s idea is to pass a law enabling a prime minister to suspend himself indefinitely to deal with an indictment and a bolstered vice prime minister to run the country until the prime minister is cleared of charges.
“Rivlin’s idea is not a bad place to start,” said a top source in Blue and White.
Channel 13 revealed that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz presented the same exact proposal as Rivlin six months ago in taped conversations that were broadcasted ahead of the April election. KAN reported that Blue and White will accept Rivlin’s compromise, if Likud gives up on its entire bloc of 55 right-wing MKs entering the coalition.
“We are willing to accept the president’s terms and hold rotations for the position of prime minister, but we will not abandon our political partners,” said Yariv Levin, the head of Likud’s coalition negotiating team.
Netanyahu called upon Gantz to give up his hopes of breaking up his party or his bloc or ending his reign in Likud, in a New Year’s toast on Thursday to 2,000 Likud supporters at Expo Tel Aviv.
“There are those who imagine or have delusions,” Netanyahu said. “First, they thought they could break up our partnership in the nationalist camp, but that is stronger than ever. So now they think they can break up Likud.”
Netanyahu than asked the crowd: “Can they break up Likud? Will you let them topple the head of Likud?” After the crowd shouted “no,” Netanyahu told Gantz to listen to the crowd, which was chanting “Bibi, King of Israel.”
“You need to understand something about something about these people who are here,” Netanyahu said. “We go together in fire and water.”
Earlier on Thursday, Gantz called on Netanyahu to negotiate and bring about a unity government during a Blue and White faction meeting in Tel Aviv.
“Since I entered politics I called for unity, and I am optimistic today that we can reach it,” Gantz said. “I call on Netanyahu and Likud: let’s negotiate immediately with talk about content and without preconditions, without spin and blocs, for the people of Israel. Let us build a real unity government.”
Gantz emphasized that the “content” of the government, meaning its policy aims, are more important to him than who gets what portfolio.
“I don’t want to be prime minister because I want a plane or a motorcade,” Gantz said. “I want the public’s trust because of the mission, not the power.”
As for his party’s commitment not to be in a government with Netanyahu when he is under indictment, Gantz also said that Blue and White is not an “anyone but Bibi” party, but rather they are “looking for public integrity [and] want to act against corruption.”
Gantz posited that Netanyahu is the only person with an interest in another election.
“We don’t need another election that will sharpen differences,” he added. “We need a framework that unites. An election could lead to a break between the citizens and the state.”
Top sources in Blue and White said the likelihood of another election is very high, and that Blue and White’s No. 2, Yair Lapid, has been more resistant to compromise and has been setting the tone in recent days.
Yamina MK Naftali Bennett accused Lapid of preventing a unity government from being formed by pushing against Rivlin’s compromise.
“Yair Lapid is forcing Benny Gantz to jump off a cliff to a new nadir of a third election in a year,” Bennett tweeted. “President Rivlin’s unity compromise was surprisingly creative. Good sense has come back. Netanyahu agreed to it. Gantz wants it. The public prays for it. Lapid screamed no. Gantz, take charge.”
Meanwhile, in a stunning turnaround, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said on Thursday morning that he was ready for his Yisrael Beytenu party to negotiate with Likud “without preconditions.”
Speaking on KAN Radio Reka to Ma’ariv diplomatic correspondent Anna Ravya-Barsky, Liberman said: “There are no preconditions. If Likud will make an official overture to us, we are prepared to negotiate with them.”
Liberman’s associates were quick to downplay his statement, noting that in the same interview he said he would negotiate only with Likud and not the other members of its 55-member right-wing and religious bloc. His spokeswoman said the party’s refusal to sit in a coalition with United Torah Judaism, Shas and most of Yamina had not changed.
Yisrael Beytenu MKs added in other radio interviews that a narrow right-wing government was unacceptable, and that only a secular coalition of Likud, Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu would work.
But Liberman’s statement still gave hope to Likud officials, who said Yisrael Beytenu would be formally invited to negotiate soon. They noted that the party’s eight MKs, along with the Right bloc’s 55, could form a very stable government.
Pressure also increased on Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz to negotiate with Likud. Histadrut labor federation head Arnon Ben-David and Labor executive committee member Pini Kabalo called on Peretz to be more flexible.
“Amir should negotiate so we can get a hand on the wheel,” Kabalo said. “I know I could anger some of our members, but it is permitted to disagree. That is why we have political institutions that authorize entering a government.”
But Peretz, whose party has six MKs, reiterated on Thursday morning that he would not negotiate with Likud. He said on Twitter that Netanyahu needed to internalize that the message of the election was that the public wants Netanyahu replaced.