Rivlin to make last-ditch effort to prevent election

Netanyahu-Liberman to clash as Gantz mandate nears end.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN gestures to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the President’s Residence on Wednesday. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN gestures to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the President’s Residence on Wednesday.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ahead of the deadline of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a government on Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin will conduct a series of emergency meetings with party heads in an attempt to avoid a third election within a year.
Rivlin will start by meeting with the leaders of Shas, United Torah Judaism, Bayit Yehudi and the Joint List, the President’s Residence said late Thursday. Other party leaders are expected to follow suit.
Sources close to Rivlin would not confirm a Channel 13 report that claimed that when he met together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz and revealed his compromise plan for a unity government, Rivlin recommended Netanyahu leave office when an indictment is filed to the courts.
According to the compromise, which Likud supports openly and Blue and White has purposely not openly endorsed yet, Netanyahu would be prime minister first and then take an extended break while fighting 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.
The two sides have fought over when Netanyahu would be considered incapacitated. Gantz has argued immediately upon his indictment, which Channel 13 reported on Thursday would take place by November 25. Likud has said when Netanyahu’s trial would begin. According to the report, Rivlin suggested as a compromise the filing of the formal indictment submission to the court, which a legal expert said would take place a few months after the indictment.
Sources close to Rivlin said they cannot authorize what was said in a room of three people, and that the president did not endorse specific timing because he thinks the two sides need to decide together.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman asked Rivlin when they met on Wednesday for a specific point in the legal process, but Rivlin declined to name one, KAN Bet reported on Thursday. Neither Rivlin’s office nor Liberman’s spokesman would confirm or deny the report, but referred to the press statement released after their meeting, which said that the president “emphasized that he was willing to be available to the sides for any further clarification, should that be necessary, to ensure the establishment of a government as soon as possible.”
A tense meeting is expected on Sunday between Netanyahu and Liberman. Netanyahu released a public statement on Thursday evening directed at Liberman, asking him directly if he will vote against a government with the Joint Arab List.
“I want to know the truth,” Netanyahu asked ahead of his meeting with Liberman. “Are you really willing to risk the security of Israel and establish a government that relies on Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh? Enough with these dangerous games. Yes or no?”
Liberman criticized Likud’s leader in an interview on Army Radio, suggesting that there is cooperation between Netanyahu and Hamas. At this rate, Liberman said, Hamas will become a second Hezbollah from the South.
Gantz and Liberman met at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel on Thursday and promised afterward to do whatever it takes to prevent another election.
In statements to the media after the meeting, Gantz blamed the impasse on Netanyahu.
“Netanyahu continues to maintain the bloc and to strive for elections,” said Gantz. “I have made my position clear regarding all options on the table: I am prepared to consider any option that aligns with my principles regarding indictment. We have scheduled to meet again at the beginning of next week. We do not want elections, and we will make every effort until the last minute to avoid them. There was good discourse and we will continue to work together.”
Liberman criticized Netanyahu for turning down his compromise efforts, but he also lamented that not all of Blue and White’s leaders have endorsed Rivlin’s compromise plan.
“I will do all I can to bring about a Likud-Blue and White government and avoid elections, because of security and economic challenges,” Liberman told the media after the meeting.