President Isaac Herzog has spoken with incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, with the aim of encouraging them to form a broad national unity government, several Hebrew media outlets reported Tuesday.
Both Lapid and Gantz, who have publicly stated that they will not partner with Netanyahu, rejected Herzog’s suggestion, the reports said.
Herzog’s office denied the reports, saying that there had not been any such contact with party leaders. “The president did not approach or suggest to the party chiefs that they join this or that government,” his office said. “The consultation procedure [regarding who should form the next coalition] at the President’s Residence will only begin tomorrow, after which the task of assembling the government will be assigned.”
Herzog is currently in Egypt for the COP27 United Nations climate conference.
Lapid’s office also said there had been no such contact from the president.
“Three weeks before the election we made it clear [to the president] that we will not have any discussion about joining a Netanyahu-led coalition,” a statement issued by Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said.
Gantz, whose office also denied the reports, said last week after the election results were published that his National Unity party would not join a government led by Netanyahu, and would go into the opposition.
Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious bloc won 64 seats out of 120 in the November 1 elections, giving the former prime minister a comfortable majority to form a government.
His coalition is expected to include the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right party Religious Zionism, which includes the extremist Otzma Yehudit faction.
In September, Herzog was quoted telling MKs he intended to push for a unity government after the elections, to enable the establishment of a stable coalition. “I intend to roll up my sleeves after the elections and work to establish a unity government as broad as possible and at any cost, to stabilize the system because the citizens of Israel are tired of this routine of elections,” Herzog reportedly said.
However, the November 1 election broke the series of four inconclusive elections since 2019, enabling Netanyahu to potentially muster a solid majority government.
Netanyahu held individual meetings with the leaders of his bloc this week in Jerusalem. The Walla news site cited sources in Netanyahu’s bloc as saying the meetings were not “official negotiations” and were intended to establish baselines.
While Netanyahu’s political allies backed him throughout the election campaign, he will still need to haggle with the parties over policy goals and cabinet posts to secure their support.