Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence on Monday that it was still possible to achieve a “robust” unity government, saying there was no need for the country to go back to elections.
“The worst option of all is a government that is dependent on Arab parties who will want to judge IDF soldiers as war criminals,” said Netanyahu. Furthermore, he said, “there’s no reason to reach a situation where we either assemble this kind of government or go to elections. There is still the option of creating a patriotic and robust unity government.”
Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin are expected to meet in the coming days in order to figure out a way to break the current political impasse. A scheduled meeting between Lieberman and Gantz on Tuesday was canceled due to the developing security situation in Israel.
“Lieberman approached me and asked to meet in order to develop a proposal that would outline a framework for a unity government,” Gantz said on Monday. “We agreed to meet and we’re prepared to consider certain compromises as long as they coincide with our ideology and what is in the best interest for the State of Israel.”
Gantz reiterated his stance that he will do everything in his power to avoid a third election.
“We’ll do everything to create a wide and liberal unity government,” said Gantz. “In the past week we’ve made progress in negotiations. We agreed with Yisrael Beiteinu to raise the minimum income for the elderly by 70 percent above the minimum wage and to boost pensions for those with disabilities. These agreements are all in addition to advancing matters of religion and state.”
Gantz called on Netanyahu to restart talks between the two parties.
“For nearly a month, you refused to discuss key issues that trouble Israeli citizens,” he said. “Send in your negotiating partners, and let’s finally resume direct and genuine talks between Likud and Blue and White. This is the order of the day. Let’s talk about what interests Israeli citizens, not just want interests you. The people of Israel will never forgive us if we don’t do this.”
Israel Hayom has also learned that Shas leader Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and United Torah Judaism head and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman would be interested in a rotation agreement if a unity government is established, and have vowed to leave their posts if Netanyahu doesn’t agree to form such a government. Sources close to Litzman confirmed this development, while Deri refused to comment.
As for Lieberman, he expressed a similar sentiment during his faction meeting on Monday.
“Netanyahu and Gantz must show responsibility and form a unity government,” he said. “If you’re at a standstill, flip a coin for all I care. There’s no bigger disaster than a third election.”
Likud sources said in response that there was a bigger disaster possible.
“There’s a bigger disaster, and it’s a minority government with [the] Arab parties,” said senior Likud officials. “One government must be established—a broad, national unity government.”
Likud demanded Blue and White walk away from the “crazy idea of forming a minority government that depends on members of the Joint List, who are supporters of terrorism and don’t recognize the State of Israel.”
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