Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the party’s No. 2 Yair Lapid, and Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman hit back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a video accusing them of seeking to form a minority government with the help of Arab parties.
Netanyahu posted a video on social media on Sunday titled “The secret scheme of Gantz, Lapid and Lieberman.”
The video’s text, displayed over ominous music, repeats allegations that the three lawmakers plan on forming a minority government with outside backing from Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, MKs from the Joint List, an alliance of Arab-majority parties.
The claim is followed by a clip of Tibi saying “there isn’t a value higher than martyrdom” and a clip of Odeh saying “we need to raise the Palestinian flag everywhere.”
The video then says that Odeh once refused to condemn a terror attack against Israeli soldiers.
“How do Gantz, Lapid and Liberman contend with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas when they’re dependent on them?” the video asks.
“A minority government is a disaster. Only a wide, national unity government,” it says.
התכנית הסודית של גנץ, לפיד וליברמן >> pic.twitter.com/6hyOG8sueD
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) October 20, 2019
His opponents said that Netanyahu was trying to score points and discredit his rivals ahead of another election, instead of seeking to form a unity government.
Gantz tweeted: “Netanyahu, the campaign ended on September 17. You have failed to form a government again, so instead of wasting time on videos, return the mandate to the president and let us form a liberal, unity government that will take care of the citizens of Israel. A government that will act wisely, diplomatically and responsibly.”
Liberman said that Netanyahu’s false accusations “cannot hide the fact that you have failed three times in a row to form a government. Instead of taking responsibility for your failure and the loss of nine seats in the election, you’re opening the campaign for the third election.”
“Your latest video testifies more than any other that you’re leading the system to an additional election instead of focusing on establishing a wide, liberal, national unity government,” Liberman wrote on Facebook.
He accused Netanyahu of “sacrificing” most Israeli citizens to the interests of a small group of ultra-Orthodox “operators.”
In response to the video’s accusations, Liberman said “you’re denying the fact that for 23 years you were the main collaborator with [Yasser] Arafat, Ahmed Tibi, the PA, Hamas and the Joint List.”
He wrote that Netanyahu had allowed millions of dollars into Gaza, and posted photos of the premier with Joint List representatives, Arafat and Tibi.
אדוני רה"מ, ההשתלחויות שלך באחרים וההאשמות השווא שאתה מנסה להדביק לכל מי שחולק על דעתך, לא יכולות להסתיר את העובדה…
He closed by wishing Netanyahu a happy Sukkot holiday and upcoming birthday.
Lapid shared the video on Facebook, saying he was doing so to show Netanyahu’s calls for a unity government are “untrue and fake.”
“This is how a [Facebook] page looks for someone who doesn’t care about the public. This is how it looks for someone who’s doing everything to push us again into elections,” he said.
Netanyahu must assemble a coalition by Wednesday night or inform Rivlin that he has failed to do so. By law, Rivlin could grant him a two-week extension, but the president is believed unlikely to do so, as the prospect of the premier making further progress in the current gridlock is seen as slim. Netanyahu currently heads a 55-strong bloc (Likud: 32 seats; Shas: 9; United Torah Judaism: 7; Jewish Home-National Union: 4; and New Right: 3) in the 120-seat Knesset.
Likud and its main rival, the centrist Blue and White party, have not made headway in negotiations aimed at forming a unity government.
Instead, Rivlin would then need to task another Knesset member with attempting to form a government. Gantz is the probable next candidate, though he is seen as even less likely to succeed in building a government.
The leading option for a coalition has been a proposal by Rivlin for a unity government in which power would be equally divided between Netanyahu- and Gantz-led blocs, with each of the two men serving two years as prime minister. As Netanyahu is currently facing charges in three corruption probes, Rivlin implied, but did not specify, that he would take an open-ended leave of absence if one or more indictments is handed down. Under the arrangement set out by Rivlin, Gantz, as “interim prime minister” in such a scenario, would enjoy all prime ministerial authority.
Both Blue and White and the secular right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, headed by Liberman, who is in the kingmaker position, have called for a unity government alongside Likud but without Netanyahu’s bloc of religious parties. Gantz’s party has also called for Netanyahu to step down as head of Likud due to the possible indictments, saying it will not serve under a prime minister facing grave charges of criminal wrongdoing.
Blue and White has said a unity government with Likud could be formed “within an hour” if Netanyahu steps down.
The deadlocked coalition talks have increased the possibility that Israel could head to elections, the third within a year.
Recently, the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily floated claims that Blue and White, which won 33 seats in September’s elections, could seek to create a 44-seat minority government supported from the outside by the Joint List (13 seats) and Yisrael Beytenu (8 seats).
But at no point since last month’s election has Gantz expressed any intention of forming the reported minority coalition with Labor (6 seats) and, possibly, the Democratic Camp (5 seats).
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