Benny Gantz and Netanyahu stalemate continues after meeting in Tel Aviv

Netanyahu: Mounting security threats require a broad government to make tough decisions.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet to discuss possible political frameworks, October 27 2019 (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet to discuss possible political frameworks, October 27 2019
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Coalition talks remained at an impasse after Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Sunday afternoon.
Blue and White also held talks with the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu negotiating teams.
The meeting of Netanyahu and Gantz, held at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, was the first between them since Gantz received the mandate to form a new government from President Reuven Rivlin last week.
Both sides’ spokespeople said the meeting focused on possible political frameworks, and that they plan to meet again soon.
Notably, both the meeting between Gantz and Netanyahu and the talks between their negotiators were the first that did not end in statements with the sides blaming one another for the stalemate.
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel needs a government with “wide shoulders” able to make “hard decisions” in the wake of mounting security threats.
The Middle East is in the midst of an upheaval, Netanyahu told members of his transitional government, pointing to the current unrest in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. And Iran is “trampling” in each of those theaters, he said.
“This obligates difficult decisions,” he said, adding that his warnings and those of Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi regarding threats from the North are not “spin” but something that reflects the reality and the “challenges of the present and the near future.”
“We need to make difficult decisions that obligate a government with wide shoulders,” and that is the importance of creating a wide unity government, he said, adding that this was not a “political question,” but a matter of state security of the highest degree.
Blue and White and Likud need to make a breakthrough on one of two issues in order to start real negotiations. The first is whether Netanyahu will continue to negotiate as the leader of the entire religious-Right bloc or just as the head of Likud. The second is addressing who will be prime minister first in a rotation government, and if Netanyahu is first, then at what point in dealing with his legal woes would Gantz replace him.
Blue and White’s spokesperson said the negotiations with Likud meeting was held in “good spirits,” and further talks may be held in the coming days, which the party requested be “on the basis of an understanding that the mandate is now with Blue and White chairman, Lt.-Gen. (Res.) MK Benny Gantz, is therefore the prime minister-designate.”
The party said that the Likud representatives in the talks continued to insist that the party represented the bloc of 55 MKs from the right-wing, religious and ultra-Orthodox parties.
Gantz and his party have sought to decouple Likud from its religious allies, so far to no avail.
Blue and White’s negotiation team is headed by Yoram Turbowicz, who was joined by Shalom Shlomo, while Tourism Minister Yariv Levin is the chief negotiator for the Likud negotiating team, and was joined by Likud attorney, Michael Rabilio.
Levin emphasized the party’s commitment to the rest of the right-wing bloc. He also lamented that Blue and White did not accept the “president’s plan,” which would have Netanyahu be prime minister first, and then take an extended leave while handling his legal troubles, during which Gantz would be prime minister.
The Likud negotiator also warned that Blue and White may form a government based on a minority in the 120-seat Knesset, with outside support from the Joint List, calling it “dangerous for Israel.” Levin said Blue and White’s representatives refused to commit to not forming such a government.
In recent days, several Blue and White MKs have spoken out against the possibility of forming a government with the support of the anti-Zionist Joint List.
A source in the centrist faction told The Jerusalem Post that if a minority government is formed, Telem, the right-wing party with four seats in the Blue and White list, would consider splitting from the faction.
MK Chili Tropper told KAN Bet on Sunday that he rules out such a government.
“We will establish a unity government with entry for parties that accept Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” Tropper said.
MK Zvi Hauser said on Saturday that Blue and White will only sit in a coalition with “a party that supports the basic, foundational arrangement of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Those are the relevant parties to a unity government. We plan to work to form a large, Zionist unity government. There is no relevance to a narrow, troublesome government.”
Blue and White’s negotiation team also sat down with its Yisrael Beytenu counterparts MK Oded Forrer and MK Alex Kushnir to discuss that party’s possible entry into a government.
Forrer also hinted that his party would not back a minority government, saying: “We will not support any far-reaching or controversial initiatives.”
Blue and White described the meeting as positive, saying the meeting was “primarily focused on the foundations and principles of the future government,” and there would be more talks in the coming days.
Forrer said Yisrael Beytenu wants a unity government with both Blue and White and Likud in it.
In addition, the party sought to discuss the future government’s positions on security and the state budget.
“In most matters of religion and state Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White see eye-to-eye,” Forrer said, referring to secularist policies making it difficult for either to sit in a government with haredi parties. These include haredi enlistment in the IDF and requiring haredi schools to teach the Ministry of Education’s core curriculum, as well as allowing public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriage.
Gantz and the Blue and White team have a busy negotiating schedule for the rest of the week. On Monday, Gantz is expected to meet with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Labor-Gesher leaders Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Abecassis, and on Tuesday the Blue and White team plans to meet with negotiators from Labor-Gesher and Democratic Union, and Gantz will meet with Democratic Union chairman Nitzan Horowitz.
Jeremy Sharon and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.