Benny Gantz opens door to unity government under Netanyahu

Gantz denied the report he is ready to split Blue and White.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is willing for the first time to sit in a national-unity government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office, he said Thursday night in an interview with Channel 12.
Gantz was repeatedly asked about the possibility and explained why his campaign promises not to sit under Netanyahu no longer apply during the national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. He said he would “do what is needed under the circumstances” and would “have to match the election results with the current situation.”
“It would be irresponsible of me to not consider alternatives and to only stick to statements I made here and someone else made there," Gantz said.    
“At this moment, all options have to remain on the table,” he said.
Asked about the possibility that sitting under Netanyahu could break up his party, because MKs Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon would not join such a coalition, Gantz said: “In Blue and White, we know how to conduct political discourse. When the time comes, we will discuss, and we will know how to make the decision.”
Earlier, Gantz and Lapid denied a report that Gantz is willing to break up Blue and White, calling it “cynical spin.” Lapid called it “another failed attempt at political spin by Likud in an attempt to break us up.”
Gantz said his party broke off talks with Likud, there were no meetings to negotiate on Thursday, and no agreements had been reached.
But Channel 13 reported that negotiations between Likud and Blue and White continued Thursday in long and very specific conference calls that made progress, including on the length of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister in a rotation.
Sources in both Likud and Blue and White said both sides are still fighting over the Justice portfolio. They said they set an artificial deadline of Monday because that is when the Knesset will reconvene and decide which of the two parties will control the post of Knesset speaker and the leadership of key Knesset committees.
Netanyahu called again for a unity government with Blue and White in a statement he delivered at his Jerusalem office on Thursday night.
President Reuven Rivlin spoke to Gantz, Lapid and Likud negotiating team head Yariv Levin on Thursday and received an update on the progress of coalition talks between the two parties.
Rivlin heard about the challenges they were facing. He urged both sides to continue negotiating and reach an agreement as soon as possible and volunteered his services as a mediator.
Rivlin warned both parties not to make the Knesset “a hostage” to the ongoing talks.
“Continue the discourse between you while ensuring that the Knesset can function properly,” he said. “It is important to the citizens of Israel for the Knesset to be open, especially in a time of crisis.”
The Likud sent Blue and White a new offer on Thursday in an effort to end the stalemate over the makeup of Knesset committees.
Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar sent the offer a day after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein refused to convene the Knesset plenum because no agreement on the committees had been reached.
According to the offer, there would be four committees, including three headed by Blue and White MKs. They would head the Arrangements Committee, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a new committee on the coronavirus. The Finance Committee would continue to be led by Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism).
Each committee would have a five-four advantage for Blue and White’s Center-Left political bloc over the Likud’s Center-Right bloc, except for the Arrangements Committee, which would be even.
Another option Zohar gave Blue and White was that Blue and White would also have a 5-4 advantage in the Arrangements Committee. But there would be no political legislation until a government is formed.
“We offered Blue and White a significant compromise,” Zohar said. “Now everyone will be able to tell who really wants to act on behalf of the citizens as a whole. They will know who is in favor of democracy and who is against it and just wants to use the Knesset for their personal political, vengeful needs that do not interest the public in this complex and dangerous time.”
In response, Blue and White said Thursday evening: “Zohar’s offer is unacceptable to us.”