Gantz: We are willing to compromise

“We in Blue and White will do everything to make sure there won’t be a third election within a year," Blue and White leader Benny Gantz stated, praising Liberman’s efforts.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz
Blue and White will consider Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s ultimatum and is willing to compromise, party leader Benny Gantz said in a faction meeting in the Knesset Monday.
Gantz also called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take coalition negotiations seriously and for Likud to talk to Blue and White’s team about the issues.
“We in Blue and White will do everything to make sure there won’t be a third election within a year. We will do everything to establish a broad, liberal unity government,” he stated, praising Liberman’s efforts on that front.
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.
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,” he 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.”
Gantz recounted that Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu agreed to promote guaranteed pensions at 70% of minimum wage and said the parties have made progress on matters of religion and state. His negotiators are also working on agreements on social policy with Labor-Gesher and Democratic Union.
“We are ready to talk about matters of significance with any potential partner,” he added.
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, and said “everyone has to contribute a bit” to make it work.
Liberman also said that, once Likud and Blue and White come up with the basic outline for a unity government, 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 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 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.” The plan Rivlin described in September would mean that Netanyahu would be first in a rotation agreement with Gantz, and at that time 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 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, and 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 continues in the role, whereas 39% favored leader Benny Gantz.
Alon Einhorn contributed to this report.