Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz heard many compromise proposals on Tuesday but none of them brought Israel closer to preventing its third election in under a year, sources close to the two men said.
One proposal floated would have allowed Netanyahu to remain prime minister for another five to six months followed by Gantz for two years, and then the leader of Likud for the remaining year and a half. But Blue and White hardened its position after Netanyahu’s indictments and is now insisting on Gantz going first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“There are many self-proclaimed mediators but no meetings of the official negotiating teams and nothing direct,” said a source in Blue and White. “Do you really think Bibi will agree to retire after five months? It’s not serious. We don’t even know what proposals are real.”
The Blue and White source said chances of a third election are “90%,” because of the Likud’s unwillingness to compromise.
Hopes that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein could lead a rebellion against Netanyahu were dashed on Tuesday, when the two men met and issued a positive joint statement together.
“We are calling for unity in Likud,” Netanyahu and Edelstein jointly said. “There is a need to lower the flames, avoid splitting and internal fighting, and stand together united against the challenges facing the party and the country.” This was the first statement Edelstein issued since Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced Netanyahu’s indictment. Edelstein told reporters after the meeting that he is working in every way possible to promote a unity government.
Likud leadership candidate Gideon Sa’ar said on KAN Radio on Tuesday that Netanyahu should resign and be held accountable, “not because of the indictment, but because of his inability to form a government and his reluctance to follow the democratic process.”
Sa’ar added that “anyone who is in political life [knows] that it is somewhat detrimental to the quality of his life. That is the deal. For many years in [my] political life, I knew where I was going and also why I was coming in. I care about the state, and that overrides everything else. I don’t complain.”
Regarding his perspective on Netanyahu’s years of leadership as head of the Likud, Sa’ar said: “I worked with him on [the basis of] mutual respect, [and] backed him up at every stage of the investigations, police recommendations and election campaigns. We even dispersed the Knesset as he wished. [While] Likud wants the success of the party, [nothing] is more important than the people and the state. Of course, if the Likud members want him to lead them, then I will respect that.”
When asked about how he would form a government if he wins the Likud primaries, Sa’ar responded that there are personal barriers between Netanyahu and other party leaders. “All of this has led to the situation we are currently facing with [the support of] 55 MKs.”
Sa’ar also claimed that he would be able to form a government by convincing other parties on the Right to join a Likud-led government under his leadership, including Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Telem (a faction currently within the Blue and White Party) and the Labor Party, which he says did not disqualify working with the Likud.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz, another Netanyahu ally, strongly attacked Sa’ar’s remarks in a statement to Likud activists. Katz wrote that “Sa’ar’s personal attacks on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during this sensitive and personal time, and his calls for his resignation, cross a red line.” He warned that Sa’ar might be laying the groundwork for splitting the Likud.
Rachel Wolf and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.