Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly denied on Sunday that his Likud party was putting out feelers to form a unity government with rivals in the Labor party after media reports suggested that a close confidant of the premier was probing the option.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not approved anyone to approach the Labor party,” the Likud said in a statement.
“If the prime minister wanted to approach [Isaac] Herzog — something that is out of the question in light of the deep ideological differences between Likud and the nationalistic camp and the Labor party of 2015 — he would do it himself without any go-betweens,” the Likud declared.
The statement came after media reports that Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Natan Eshel had been chatting unofficially with representatives from the Zionist Union to check the unity government option.
According to the reports, the Zionist Union flatly rejected the political overtures.
The Zionist Union, a merger of the Labor and Hatnua factions, failed to unseat Netanyahu in elections last week and has since indicated it will lead the opposition. Leaders from both sides put the kibosh on a unity government in the lead-up to the elections. Herzog said on Saturday that he would lead the opposition to Netanyahu’s new government.
On Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin began the first round of meetings with party leaders to hear their recommendations for who should be tasked with trying to form a coalition. Netanyahu, whose Likud party won 30 seats to second-place Zionist Union’s 24 seats, is expected to be tapped by the president to form the next government.