MK Amir Peretz, leader of the dovish Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, said Monday his party would not rule out joining a center-left government supported from the outside by the majority-Arab Joint List.
“We don’t rule out anyone — not ultra-Orthodox and not Arabs,” Peretz said at a faction meeting in the Knesset. “Our party [Labor-Gesher-Meretz] will be part of the next government even if it is supported by the Arab parties. We have no reason to rule out populations in Israel.”
Peretz said the key consideration guiding his political decisions would be the policies adopted by the new government, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “created so many societal problems, so there is room for everyone [in the attempt] to rectify them.”
Peretz’s remarks came after Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz over the weekend vowed that he would not invite the Joint List into any coalition he forms, if he wins the March 2 election.
Labor-Gesher-Meretz is a natural partner for Gantz, who leads a center-left bloc of opposition parties.
“I will not sit with the Joint List and I do not need their support,” Gantz told Channel 12 news on Saturday.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh earlier that day said Gantz would not be able to form a ruling coalition without him. Odeh said that while the Joint List, in the wake of the previous elections in September, had recommended to President Reuven Rivlin that Gantz form a coalition, it will not recommend him if he doesn’t come out against segments of the Trump administration’s peace plan. Gantz has publicly endorsed the US proposal.
Without support from the Joint List, Gantz is unlikely to have enough MKs behind him to get the nod after the coming March 2 vote. Polls have shown Netanyahu continuing to lead a right-wing and religious bloc of MKs that is larger than the opposition bloc Gantz can muster without the Joint List. Neither bloc has yet been predicted to have the 61-seat majority it needs in the 120-seat Knesset.
Odeh has also ruled out joining any government that includes hawkish MK Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party.
Liberman on Saturday said he was prepared to join a coalition led by Gantz and that the left-wing Meretz party “doesn’t exist” anymore as its own entity now that it has merged with Labor and Gesher. “It makes it much easier,” he said.
Israel is heading towards its third election within a year after two previous votes failed to break a political deadlock between the blocs led by Netanyahu and Gantz. Attempts by both the Likud leader and Blue and White chairman to form a unity government of the two largest parties have also failed.
On Sunday, right-wing and religious parties renewed their pledge to back Netanyahu as prime minister, leading to fears that even the coming vote won’t end the political stalemate, unless some MKs in either bloc break ranks.