As Liberman pushes a unity government, Gantz says he won’t serve with Netanyahu

Blue and White head says he’s open to joining forces with Likud but not PM due to his legal woes; adds it’s ‘inconceivable’ that Hamas is ‘dictating agenda’ on southern border

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the Knesset, June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the Knesset, June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blue and White party head Benny Gantz said Thursday that he could form a unity government with the Likud party after the September elections, but not with its current leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — thereby rejecting a notion that is being pushed by Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Liberman.

“We cannot sit with a prime minister with such suspicions against him,” Gantz said, referring to pending fraud and breach of trust charges facing Netanyahu in three graft cases, including bribery in one of them.

“It is very clear that we will be the biggest party,” he told the Kan public broadcaster. “We will try very hard not to exclude anyone — we are only against extremists.”

Liberman said Wednesday that he would be pleased were a broad unity government formed consisting of the ruling Likud party and its main rival Blue and White, even if such a coalition did not include his own party, a scenario he described as unlikely.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, right. (Flash90)

Netanyahu’s failure to form a government after the April elections stemmed from Liberman’s refusal to join a coalition unless a bill formalizing military exemptions for religious seminary students was passed without changes, a condition rejected by the premier’s ultra-Orthodox allies. Netanyahu was tasked with putting together a coalition, but was unable to muster a ruling majority before the deadline. Under Israeli law, if the prime minister-designate cannot form a government before the clock runs out, the mandate goes back to the president, who assigns another lawmaker to do so.

However, at Netanyahu’s instigation, the Knesset instead voted to dissolve itself minutes ahead of the deadline in late May and schedule fresh elections, preventing another MK, a rival from inside or outside Likud, from getting a crack at assembling a coalition.

Gantz also said Thursday that in any future political process with the Palestinians, his party would work toward reaching an agreement “where we maintain our security capabilities,” promising that “nobody will be harmed by Blue and White decisions.”

Regarding the tensions in Gaza, the former IDF chief said “it is inconceivable that [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar can dictate the agenda on the southern border.”

Gantz has frequently attacked Netanyahu over Gaza on the campaign trail, but has given few details on what he would do differently if he were prime minister.

Netanyahu has defended his Gaza policy by saying it is in Israel’s interest to do everything possible to avoid a major military operation in the Strip.

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