The latest negotiations between the Blue and White and Likud parties have failed to lead to a breakthrough that would allow for the formation of a coalition government, the two sides announced in a joint statement on Wednesday evening after further talks.
“The big gaps between the parties remain intact,” the parties said, describing the atmosphere of the talks as “good, serious and interesting.” A follow-up meeting will take place “in the coming days.”
Negotiators representing the two sides met in Kfar Maccabiah in central Israel on Wednesday afternoon for the third round of negotiations since President Reuven Rivlin tasked Blue and White leader Benny Gantz last month with attempting to form a coalition.
Blue and White is being represented by Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Shlomo, while Ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin are negotiating for Likud, alongside attorney Michael Ravillo.
The talks have been deadlocked, with Gantz accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of blocking the formation of a new coalition by refusing to show any flexibility regarding Blue and White’s demands. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Gantz asserted that Netanyahu was pushing the country to its third election in less than a year.
Netanyahu, he maintained, was preventing a Blue and White-Likud unity government from being formed by refusing to abandon his 55 seat-strong bloc of right-wing and religious allies.
“Netanyahu isn’t willing to give up his bloc. Netanyahu isn’t willing to give up his immunity,” Gantz tweeted. “Netanyahu isn’t willing to discuss the basic guidelines for a unity government.”
“Netanyahu wants to drag Israel to a third election,” he charged. “I will do everything to prevent that. I will do everything to form a government.”
Likud has blamed Blue and White’s stubbornness for the failure to agree on a unity government, saying it has agreed in principle to an equal power-sharing arrangement.
President Reuven Rivlin last month tasked Gantz with attempting to form a coalition, after Netanyahu failed in the wake of the September 17 elections. But Gantz’s chances of succeeding where the prime minister failed are seen as just as slim, with Netanyahu’s bloc of supporting lawmakers from his Likud, right-wing and religious parties refusing to budge. He has until November 20 to lock down a government.
Gantz’s attack on Netanyahu came as a report Tuesday on the Globes website claimed there had in fact been progress in negotiations for a unity government.
The report said the real Blue and White-Likud negotiations weren’t taking place during the public meetings announced to the press, but through a back channel that has been operating almost since the elections.
It said that while several key issues have not yet been resolved, there have also been agreements on principal issues. It said Gantz and most of his party co-leaders have agreed to a power-sharing mechanism in which Netanyahu will serve first as prime minister but go on a leave of absence once he is charged in three corruption investigations against him. Gantz would then be interim prime minister until Netanyahu’s two years are up, and would then take over the full-time job.
With unity talks stalled, Blue and White has also been engaging in coalition talks with potential left-wing partners, meeting with representatives of Labor-Gesher on Tuesday and announcing that the two sides had made “progress” toward a coalition agreement.
A poll published Tuesday predicted a close race if direct elections for prime minister were held in a bid to solve the current political stalemate — a far-fetched option floated this week by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.