Gantz on Likud bid to avert elections: PM pressed the button — no way back

Blue and White party leader says Netanyahu ‘has lost it,’ calls on him to step down; warns Ehud Barak’s new political bid could do harm by dividing votes

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019. (Flash90)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on June 26, 2019. (Flash90)

Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz said Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is misleading the public with his allies’ calls to cancel the September elections, saying such a maneuver was “legally impossible.”

However, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who is pushing to revoke through Knesset legislation what would be the second national vote within six months, swiftly retorted by saying that the required legal tools exist.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv Gantz responded to reports that Netanyahu was looking at ways to avoid going through with upcoming September 17 elections. Netanyahu himself called the elections after failing to form a majority coalition in the wake of the previous April elections.

Media reports have also claimed Likud last month — and again in recent days — offered Blue and White to join it in a coalition and rotate the premiership between Netanyahu and Gantz, although both parties have denied the reports.

Cancelling the elections appears to hinge on Likud and Blue and White forming a unity government.

But Gantz rejected the possibility and denied that Netanyahu had contacted the centrist party during coalition negotiations last month, saying the reports were no more than spin by the prime minister.

“Netanyahu has lost it,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu pressed the button to dissolve the Knesset and there is no way back. What we’ve seen in the past few days is more spin from Netanyahu’s ‘House of Cards.'”

“Those who failed to form a government led Israel to an expensive and unnecessary election campaign,” he said. “Netanyahu is once again misleading the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. June 27, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Gantz asserted that, had Netanyahu not dissolved parliament, President Reuven Rivlin would have tasked him next with trying to form a government.

“And I would have succeeded,” Gantz said.

The Blue and White leader said that Netanyahu should step down from his leadership position in order to focus on the indictments he faces, pending a hearing, in three corruption cases.

“If Netanyahu was a statesman and concerned first and foremost for the state and not for his own personal interest, he would get out of his seat, go and deal with his legal affairs, and not impose a year of paralysis and wasted public funds on the state.”

Gantz also commented on the return to politics of former prime minister Ehud Barak, who had scheduled his own press conference for later in the day, during which he announced the formation of a new party to compete in the coming elections.

“I am going to defeat Netanyahu and form the government in the future,” Gantz said. “Any split that will happen will harm that chance.”

Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv on April 3, 2019 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Shortly after Gantz’s press conference Knesset Speaker Edelstein responded in a statement saying, “I say unequivocally: there exists a legal framework to cancel the Knesset’s dissolution, as well as a desire by the Israeli public to cancel the repeated elections.

“I would not have initiated the process if I was not sure that it is possible,” Edelstein said. “I again call on all sides to consider what is at stake, to act responsibly, and to understand that this is the time to put aside confrontations and slogans — to act for the benefit of the Israeli public. That is what the public expects from us.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced he would “consider” Edelstein’s proposal to cancel the September vote.

Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein speaks during a session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, June 12, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The network reported that a workaround plan could see the Knesset Presidium convened to cancel parliament’s current hiatus. A new law would then be introduced that enables parliament to cancel elections.

However, such legislation would require broad support of at least 80 MKs, which would mean gaining the support of Blue and White and other allies.

It is not clear whether such a move is legally possible, after the legislature voted in late May to disband. On Wednesday, Channel 13 reported that Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon was drafting an opinion saying there is no legal basis for canceling the September elections.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has already told politicians that calling off the vote wasn’t legally possible, Channel 12 has reported.

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