Gantz to meet with Netanyahu on Sunday, Liberman and Horowitz in following days
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Gantz to meet with Netanyahu on Sunday, Liberman and Horowitz in following days

Blue and White head to talk with party leaders in bid to form coalition, days after PM returned the mandate following failed attempt to do so himself

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz, right. (Hadas Parush/Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz, right. (Hadas Parush/Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv on Sunday, the Likud and Blue and White parties said in a joint statement on Saturday.

The meeting will take place Sunday afternoon at the PM’s office at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv following an invitation by Gantz, who has been tasked with forming a government, the parties said.

Gantz received the mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday evening and has already begun speaking with party leaders and sending out invitations to meet to negotiate their potential entry into the Blue and White-led coalition he hopes to establish.

Gantz is also set to meet with Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman on Monday in the Knesset, a day after their negotiations teams are expected to sit down for coalition talks.

Democratic Union leader Nitzan Horowitz, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 12, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In addition, Gantz is expected to meet on Wednesday with head of the left-wing Democratic Camp alliance, Nitzan Horowitz, according to a statement from Blue and White. That meeting will also take place a day after their teams meet for coalition talks.

According to reports in the Hebrew media, Gantz could offer Netanyahu a “compromise deal” that would force him to choose between including his religious allies in the coalition, and being prime minister first in any rotation deal.

Likud has stressed that Netanyahu is negotiating on behalf of the 55-member bloc of right-wing and religious parties loyal to him, without whom he will not enter a coalition. Blue and White has previously rejected this negotiation position outright.

In a speech on Wednesday evening, Gantz promised to build a government of national reconciliation and said he would invite Netanyahu and Likud to be part of it.

Gantz, like Netanyahu who failed before him, has 28 days to try and form a government, though the prime minister-designate is seen as being no more likely to succeed in that task.

President Reuven Rivlin presents Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the mandate to form a new Israeli government, after PM Netanyahu’s failure to form one, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on October 23, 2019. (GALI TIBBON / AFP)

With Gantz’s appointment, Netanyahu, for the first time in his 10 years of consecutive rule as prime minister, saw his exclusive control over Israel’s political system wrested from his hands.

Netanyahu was initially tasked by Rivlin with trying to form a government based on the strength of his pact with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties to negotiate as a bloc of 55 MKs of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers after September’s inconclusive elections (Likud: 32; Shas: 9; United Torah Judaism: 7 and Yamina: 7).

Gantz heads a bloc of 54 MKs from the center, left and Arab parties (Blue and White: 33; Labor-Gesher: 6; Democratic Camp: 5; and 10 out of 13 MKs from the mainly Arab Joint List).

If Gantz fails to cobble together a coalition during his 28-day window, which ends November 20, a majority of lawmakers in the Knesset could try to endorse any Knesset member — including Netanyahu and Gantz — as prime minister.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (L), President Reuven Rivlin (C) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

A leader has never before been elected during that time period in Israel. If that fails, the country would be forced into the unprecedented scenario of a third election in under a year.

On Friday evening, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that before he was officially tasked with forming a government, Gantz looked at the possibility of attempting to form a minority coalition that would include Labor-Gesher, ultra-Orthodox parties, and the New Right.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (right) meets with Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman on September 23, 2019. (Elad Malka)

Blue and White was said to hope such a coalition could be backed from outside by Liberman — who has repeatedly ruled out sitting with Haredi parties.

Blue and White put out feelers to Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni and New Right’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, but was rebuffed, the report said.

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