Netanyahu, Gantz meeting to finalize unity government deal

Final divides over justice minister, Knesset speaker

Reuven Rivlin, Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu meet on September 23, 2019. (photo credit: GPO)
Reuven Rivlin, Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu meet on September 23, 2019.
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz met late Saturday night, in an effort to finalize a unity government by the time the Knesset plenum returns on Monday afternoon.
Representatives of Netanyahu and Gantz met all day Friday. The deal they are working on calls for Netanyahu and Gantz to rotate as prime minister, with the latter taking over in October 2021.
“We are on the way to a national unity government to unite forces for you, to win our struggle against the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said in a message to the public that he posted on social media.
Remaining fights between the two sides include Gantz’s opposition to Likud MK Yuli Edelstein returning to be Knesset speaker and Likud opposing Knesset Arrangements Committee chairman Avi Nissenkorn becoming justice minister. There will also be fights within Likud and its satellite parties over portfolios that remain with the bloc.
There are also divides between Netanyahu and Gantz on diplomatic issues and what Netanyahu’s role would be after he finishes his term as prime minister. Likud wants a bill passed enabling him to serve as vice prime minister, despite his indictments and the current law that prevents MKs under indictment from serving as cabinet ministers.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horovitz warned on Saturday night that if Gantz passed such a bill he would be “a partner in making Israeli politics even more corrupt.”
It remains to be seen what other parties would join the coalition. Labor leader Amir Peretz hinted on Friday that he wanted to join and Channel 13 reported that he told party activists to prepare for such a scenario. Labor MK Itzik Shmuli said he did not know what would end up happening.
The third Labor MK, Merav Michaeli, is organizing a rally on Zoom on Sunday against joining the government. She said she wants Labor’s institutions to meet on zoom as well to decide whether to join the coalition.
Gesher MK Orly Levy-Abecassis is also reportedly interested in joining the coalition. But the head of her former party, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, ruled out that possibility for his party on Saturday night.
“Yisrael Beytenu proved again over the past week that our word is our bond,” Liberman wrote on Facebook. “We cannot be purchased with ministerial posts or committee chairmanships, and unlike others, we do not intend to veer from our path and our promises to our voters.”
That last sentence was an attack by Liberman on Gantz. When asked about Gantz’s decision in an interview with Channel 13 on Saturday night, Liberman said “Gantz has the full right to make a mistake.”