Emergency gov't idea mulled as compromise to keep Blue and White together

Gantz rejects Netanyahu's offer to close unity government deal • Edelstein expected to allow vote to oust him today

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz addresses a near-empty Knesset while Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein looks on, March 23, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz addresses a near-empty Knesset while Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein looks on, March 23, 2020
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is considering joining what would be termed as an "emergency government" under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for six months, sources in the party said Tuesday, after Gantz held individual meetings with Blue and White MKs at the Knesset.
Joining such a government could enable Gantz to keep Blue and White together despite the fierce opposition to joining a Netanyahu-led government from members of the party's leadership "cockpit," Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya'alon. The six months would be counted as part of Netanyahu's time in office if a more formal unity government is formed afterward with a rotation in the Prime Minister's Office.  
Gantz turned down an offer from Netanyahu to meet on Tuesday and close a deal on a national unity government.
"This time is a test of leadership and national responsibility," Netanyahu wrote to Gantz in a Facebook post. "The citizens of Israel need a unity government that will work to save lives and livelihoods. This is not the time for a fourth election."
After Netanyahu wrote to Gantz that the gaps between them were small and could be overcome, Gantz responded that their gaps were over matters of essence. He told Netanyahu he would first elect a new Knesset speaker - as the Supreme Court ordered on Monday night - and only then try to form a unity government, in which he would serve first as prime minister.
"No political spin or unrestrained attacks on the courts, my political allies and I, will stop me," Gantz said. "I will first return Israeli democracy to full functioning, without fear. After that I will consider all the ways to form a government to fight the coronavirus and deal with other challenges that lie before us.
Gantz said Netanyahu must tell the people of Israel clearly that Supreme Court decisions must be followed and that "Israel will not have anarchy." Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is expected to accept the Supreme Court's demand to hold a vote to replace him on Wednesday.
Earlier, Gantz told a group of Blue and White activists outside his Rosh Ha'ayin home who came to press him to enter a unity government that he must go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister's Office.
"At the moment, the mandate is mine," he said. "There is an expectation that I should come under Netanyahu, as if that is the only alternative. I ran wars. I know how to run national crises no less than him."
In what could be seen as another overture from Likud to Blue and White, Edelstein accepted Gantz's party's request to enable the formation of four new Knesset committees, including a special committee on the coronavirus. Edelstein even voted for the formation of the committees while the rest of the MKs in Netanyahu's Center-Right bloc boycotted the votes.
The Likud and its satellite parties will continue to not participate in the proceedings of the Knesset and its committees to protest Blue and White's decision to form the committees without coordination with the Likud's bloc. The Knesset Arrangements Committee, led by Blue and White faction chairman Avi Nissenkorn, approved the establishment of six interim committees late Monday night, with the support of Blue and White and its bloc.
"Trampling traditions in the Knesset that there have been from the beginning, they gave themselves the chairmanship and a majority on every committee," a Likud spokesman said. "The nationalist camp's 58 MKs will not participate or give a hand to this anti-democratic behavior. We will continue to struggle against this bullying on behalf of the citizens of Israel."
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will be led by Lt.-Gen (ret.), MK Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White). The Finance Committee will be led by MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beyteinu.) Those two committees do not require approval by the Knesset plenum.
There will also be a special Coronavirus Committee led by MK Ofer Shelah (Blue and White). A Committee to Prepare the Education System and Special Education for the Next School Year will be led by Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz. Two special committees on reducing violence in the Arab sector and on labor and welfare will be led by Joint List MKs Mansour Abbas and Aida Touma-Sliman.
“It is precisely during these difficult times that it is so important to have a functioning Knesset to maintain stability among the citizens and to preserve Israeli democracy, which is in real danger," Nissenkorn said.  "The initiatives we are taking today will allow the Knesset to begin work again tomorrow, first and foremost by helping the country deal with the corona crisis.”