Blue and White leader Benny Gantz will continue his efforts to form a unity government with Likud until the midnight deadline when his mandate to do so ends, party officials said Wednesday, despite both sides appearing to have rejected each other’s terms to work together in a coalition.
He will keep going “until the last minute” a party spokesperson told The Times of Israel, saying that his intention of forming a unity government had not changed.
In a dramatic announcement Wednesday after unity talks broke down, Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman announced that he would not support either a minority government headed by Gantz or a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu, signaling new elections.
“There is no chance. We will not join either a limited right- or left-wing government or a minority government. Whatever sort of government that would be, it would not survive and would not be able to function to do what is needed for the country,” Liberman told his Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset.
But despite the efforts for a unity government appearing to hit a dead end, Blue and White insisted they wouldn’t give up. “We won’t call it a day until we have exhausted all options. We will keep trying until the deadline,” one party official said.
“We are still focusing on Likud. That has always been the strategy and still is,” another party source said.
President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday held meetings with members of various political parties ahead of the midnight deadline.
After meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Democratic Camp head Nitzan Horowitz on Tuesday night, the president met with Blue and White MK Moshe Ya’alon, Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, United Torah Judaism leaders Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni, and New Right’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. He was also set to meet Shas leader Aryeh Deri.
The talks appeared unlikely to produce a last-minute coalition deal before Gantz’s time runs out, and were likely geared toward the next stage — 21 days during which any 61 Knesset members can back any MK as prime minister. If that doesn’t happen, Israel will go to unprecedented third elections in under a year.
Ya’alon said after his meeting with Rivlin that he said the “only” government acceptable for his party was a unity government with Likud headed by Blue and White, “especially after it became clear in our talks with Likud that their interpretation of the president’s proposal was nowhere near his intention.”
Rivlin has suggested a power-sharing agreement whereby, he indicated, Netanyahu would take a leave of absence if he is indicted in the three corruption cases pending against him.
Liberman said that despite the rejection of his plan by Blue and White and Likud, “liberal unity was very close. The only thing we had to overcome was a personal rift — one [side] wasn’t willing to accept the president’s plan, the other wouldn’t give up on his messianic, ultra-Orthodox bloc.”