Knesset speaker hosts Blue and White and Likud for last-ditch coalition talks

Likud’s Yuli Edelstein looks to end coalition impasse, warns of looming ‘economic collapse’ if negotiations fail

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gives a press statement in the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gives a press statement in the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Warning of an “economic and social collapse,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday said he had invited coalition negotiators for Blue and White and Likud to meet with him later in the evening in “a final attempt” to form a unity government.

Edelstein, a member of the Likud party, met representatives of Blue and White at 5 p.m. in his office, with a Likud meeting set for 6 p.m.

With less than two weeks still remaining for 61 MKs to recommend one of their number to form a government before the country is forced to go to an unprecedented third election in the span of a year, Edelstein lamented that “everyone seems to have given up, and we’ve gone back — too fast — to [campaign] slogans and election calculations.”

He warned: “Everyone understands that Israel is in the midst of a government emergency that could lead to economic and social collapse.”

Calling on Blue and White and Likud leaders to “choose between leadership and cowardice, between the will of the public, the entire public, and a tremendous crisis of trust,” Edelstein said the country had reached “the moment of truth in Israeli politics. There will be no other moment. This is the moment to say: enough is enough.”

He added: “I am pleased to inform you that my appeal has been answered in the affirmative by the two leaders and this evening the attempt to restore sanity to Israel will begin.”

Negotiations from the Blue and White (L) and Likud parties hold coalition talks in Ramat Gan on November 17, 2019. (Elad Malka)

In a statement responding to Edelstein, Blue and White said, “We welcome the initiative of the Speaker of the Knesset, as well as any dialogue that can advance a broad unity government led by Blue and White together with Likud, which will be based on common principles.”

The party said it was “making every effort to prevent unnecessary and expensive third elections and will meet with the Speaker of the Knesset today to discuss this.”

Two rounds of elections, in April and September, failed to produce an elected government — a first in Israeli political history. The Knesset now has a December 11 deadline for lawmakers to agree on an MK to form a government or parliament will be dissolved and third elections set, likely for March.

After Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz both failed to form a government following the September 17 election, there has been some speculation that another candidate, such as Likud’s MK Gideon Sa’ar or Edelstein himself, would use the period under December 11 to gather the 61 signatures of MKs that would see them tasked with forming a coalition.

Channel 12 reported on Tuesday that covert negotiations were being held in an attempt to agree on a unity government despite the political impasse. The outline reportedly being discussed entails Netanyahu serving as premier for several months, then a Blue and White member — likely Gantz — taking over for two years, after which a Likud candidate would take over for the remainder of the term.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, on October 27, 2019. (Elad Malka)

However, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Netanyahu rejected this offer because Blue and White would not support granting him immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases.

Some in Blue and White, meanwhile, have rejected the idea of joining a government led even for a short time by a politician facing criminal indictments.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced charges against Netanyahu in three corruption cases last Thursday. An hour later, the prime minister held a press conference in which he accused prosecutors of seeking to oust him from power using false corruption charges in an “attempted coup.”

Netanyahu claimed that the investigations were tainted by various improprieties, and accused law enforcement authorities of “selective enforcement” against him. He demanded that “the investigators be investigated.”

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