Internal fights on Right holding up coalition

Kahlon says goodbye to politics

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech at his Jerusalem office, regarding the new measures that will be taken to fight the coronavirus, March 14, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/GALI TIBBON/POOL)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a speech at his Jerusalem office, regarding the new measures that will be taken to fight the coronavirus, March 14, 2020
A meeting that had been set for Monday night between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was canceled, not because of Netanyahu's voluntary quarantining but because of internal fighting inside Netanyahu's Likud and with its satellite party Yamina, sources in Blue and White said Monday night.
Netanyahu quarantined himself after coming in contact with an adviser who tested positive for the virus, even though he tested negative. A meeting was nonetheless considered on the Zoom video communications platform, but Gantz ultimately decided against it.
"There is no point in meeting right now," a source close to Gantz said. "He needs to fix things at home."
The things Gantz's associates referred to included former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein's demands to return to his former job, Likud demanding a government of 34 ministers to void demoting current portfolio holders and Yamina demanding four ministries for its six MKs.
The Likud looke into the possibility of giving the Foreign Affairs portfolio to Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, even though it had been promised to Blue and White for MK Gabi Ashkenazi. Blue and White expressed willingness to trade it for another ministry, liked Education or a bolstered Construction portfolio.
Edelstein reported lobbied Gantz to let him go back to his old job, sending emissaries saying that his attacks on the Supreme Court were not as bad as they would receive if Tourism Minister Yariv Levin is given the post.
Netanyahu itends to break promises of portfolios he made to Likud figures, incuding MKs Nir Barkat and Gadi Yevarkan, as well as promises that weren't published. Likud MKs started openly accusing Netanyahu of giving Blue and White too much.
"It cannot be that 19 MKs will get 17 portfolios and three committees," Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar tweeted.
The 19 Zohar referred to were the 17 remaining MKs in Blue and White plus Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz and his number two in the party, MK Itzik Shmueli.
Peretz and Shmuli are strongly considering entering Netanyahu's government but have not made a final decision. Gantz offered Peretz the Economy portfolio and Shmuli a deputy ministry but Gantz is trying to get a socioeconomic portfolio for Shmuli as well.
Advisers to Peretz and Shmuli said they would not make a decision until they see the guidelines of the coalition deal between Likud and Blue and White.
Nevertheless, MK Merav Michaeli, who is the third of the three Labor MKs, demanded that the party's institutions be convened immediately using Zoom. In explaining her decision not to follow her fellow Labor Mks into the government, she said that Netanyahu poses a threat to Israel's democratic system, while adding that "we are in a state where the government and the Knesset itself are violating Supreme Court orders."  
Michaeli has vigorously denied reports that she was on her way to Meretz. She said she was a member of Labor and would remain in the party regardless of the decision of her colleagues but that if they joined the government, she would remain in the opposition.
Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz also harshly criticized Peretz and Shmuli following reports that the latter two are planning to join a government led by Netanyahu, saying that his party does not "cheat" its voters or betrays its values.
Horowitz said "crawling into Netanyahu's government would necessitate splitting Labor and Meretz into two separate Knesset factions.
Incoming opposition leader Yair Lapid mocked his former Blue and White colleague Gabi Ashkenazi, who is expected to be the next foreign minister.
That role had been expected to go to Lapid before Blue and White split. At a press conference, he said he would not "give up my principles to be a Foreign Minister by Zoom."
"The fifth Netanyahu government being formed before us is bloated, wasteful and corrupt with 36 ministers," he said. "What insensitivity. What a disgrace. By the end of the week there will be a million Israelis unemployed and they’re sorting jobs for themselves."
Cody Levine contributed to this report