Blue and White not expecting breakthrough in Liberman meeting

Liberman accuses Netanyahu of "begging Egypt to help us surrender."

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz meets with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz meets with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will meet with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel on Thursday morning, amid low expectations for a political breakthrough on the formation of a national unity government by next Wednesday when Gantz’s mandate ends.
“There won’t be a big announcement in the meeting,” a source in Blue and White said. “But a week is still a long time in Israeli politics. It’s like a year in other countries.”
After it initially appeared that the security tensions could bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz closer together, Gantz downplayed those expectations on Wednesday on a visit to Sderot, when he said that the security events and political situation should not be conflated.
“If there is a way to promote unity in the State of Israel, I will be the first to do so,” Gantz stated. “I call for unity at every opportunity and I am making every effort toward forming a unity government, but there are a lot of important things in the State of Israel: there are principles and values, there is the law and there are democratic aspects. Unity should serve all national interests and not just one challenging situation.”
THE FOUR LEADERS in Blue and White’s so-called “cockpit” continued to disagree over the possibility of a unity government in which Netanyahu would go first. While Gantz is open to the idea and Gabi Ashkenazi has warmed up to it, Moshe Ya’alon would refuse to be a minister in such a government and Yair Lapid still rules it out completely.
In a meeting on Wednesday, the four MKs decided not to rule out the possibility of a minority left-wing coalition supported from outside by the Joint List, who a Likud spokesman called “terrorist supporters.” The Likud lamented that  Liberman nor Gantz have yet to explicitly rule out forming a minority government.
“This kind of government endangers the State of Israel and is a slap in the face to IDF soldiers who [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi want to put on trial as war criminals. We cannot let a dangerous minority government exist for even one day,” the spokesman said.
In an interview on Channel 12, Liberman was repeatedly asked about such a possibility and he said the question was not relevant. The channel reported that in a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, Liberman said he was ready to be a guarantor that if a unity government is formed with Netanyahu going first, that Netanyahu would quit the post and let Gantz take over.
Liberman sought clarification from Rivlin on the president’s proposal for ending the coalition-building crisis in the meeting at the President’s Residence.
According to the compromise – which Likud supports openly and Blue and White has purposely refrained from openly endorsing yet – Netanyahu would be prime minister first and then take an extended break while continuing to fight corruption charges. According to the plan, Gantz would take Netanyahu’s place as prime minister when Netanyahu is incapacitated, after initially serving as vice prime minister.
Liberman asked Rivlin how to handle the complicated question of what constitutes being incapacitated. Blue and White has hesitated to endorse the compromise, due in part to that question remaining unresolved. Rivlin said he would be happy to clarify the proposal for Gantz and Netanyahu.
Likud negotiator Ze’ev Elkin and Yisrael Beytenu Oded Forrer were spotted eating together at the Knesset cafeteria and holding unofficial negotiations.
Liberman blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Facebook on Wednesday for his handling of the Gaza crisis. The Yisrael Beytenu leader said the only one who had a solution to the rocket fire was himself.
“Instead of finding a real solution, Netanyahu and his Likud colleagues are slinging mud all day,” Liberman wrote. “They have no answers or solution, and they are not ready to conduct professional deliberations on the security situation. Even worse, we have found ourselves begging Egypt to help us surrender and end the incident as it was before, which will just lead to yet another round.”
Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar told the Israel Britain and Commonwealth Association’s Balfour Dinner that Israel must break apart the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, and that if Israel does not, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will upgrade their abilities, like Hezbollah.
“There could be a situation in Gaza that is like Lebanon that will make Israel’s strategic situation even more challenging,” Sa’ar said.
Sa’ar said Israel’s enemies do not see a difference among Israelis and that is why Israel needs a broad unity government. He said he hoped Netanyahu and Gantz could find a way to work together.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report