'Significant progress' in 2 hour Netanyahu-Gantz meeting

After two-hour meeting, Rivlin calls on party leaders to put nation first even if they end up paying personal price

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz took “significant strides” toward creating a national unity government, President Reuven Rivlin said following a two-hour meeting between the trio.
Negotiating teams for Blue and White and Likud will meet on Tuesday, and Netanyahu and Gantz will meet again with President Rivlin on Wednesday.
After the meeting, Netanyahu told his allies on the Right that he is representing all of them in his talks with Gantz, and that he would keep his previous promise not to join a government without them.
Rivlin left Netanyahu and Gantz alone for half an hour. They decided not to detail what progress was made in the meeting.
“Now, the first challenge is building a channel of direct dialogue out of trust between the two sides,” the president said.
Following his consultations with the nine parties that crossed the electoral threshold, Rivlin said that there is not a clear candidate to form the government.
“The nation expects you to find a solution and prevent additional elections, even if it means paying a personal or ideological price,” he said.
Earlier, Netanyahu warned his Likud MKs in a closed-door meeting on Monday that the current political dispute could take months to resolve.
The prime minister told the legislators that the most likely scenario – if the current situation does not change – is that Rivlin would ask either him or Gantz to form a government, and then the other would be given a chance and they both would fail. He said that only after both failures would he be given another chance and succeed.
According to MKs present at the meeting, Netanyahu said that whoever is given the mandate for the third time would definitely form a government, so it would better to avoid months of political tension and form a government now.
In the open portion of the faction meeting, Netanyahu told them that the coming year of 5780 should be a year of unity. Speaking minutes before receiving Rivlin’s invitation, he called on Gantz to meet with him as soon as possible to discuss forming a coalition together.
“The only government that can be formed is a broad unity government,” Netanyahu said. “To get that government, we need to talk.”
Gantz held his first meeting since the election with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on Monday afternoon. They released a joint statement afterward that they “exchanged their views and impressions” and would meet again when there is a need.
Gantz faced criticism for not meeting with Liberman before he told the president he would not support either Gantz or Netanyahu.
Liberman wrote on Facebook following the meeting that the main problem in forming a unity government was deciding who would be prime minister first. He said that in the meeting, he merely reiterated the views he expressed throughout the election campaign.
He said that he called on Gantz to form a secular national unity government of Blue and White, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, with a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office that would not include extremists. He also called for the same far-reaching changes on matters of religion and state that he called for during the election.
Liberman expressed hope that Rivlin would find a solution to the dispute over who would go first in a rotation.
“I hope a stable unity government will be formed soon,” he said.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader spoke with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein following Blue and White’s initiative to dismiss him after the Knesset inauguration. He explained to the speaker that as long as the situation isn’t clear, Yisrael Beytenu does not have any interest in relieving Edelstein of his duties, so it will not back a motion to choose a new speaker promoted by Blue and White.
After the meeting, Gantz came out with a statement in which he said:"My fellow members of parliament. As you know, tonight I met with the Prime Minister at the president's office at his request. In this meeting, much was said about unity, which has been our goal since our party was formed. In the meeting I made clear that the way to unity goes through those things which we promised to the public that elected us. The public chose change and we have no intention of giving up on leadership, on our principles or our natural partners on that path. Tomorrow the the negotiations teams from both the Likud and Blue and White will meet for a preliminary discussion."