Labor head says he and Gantz will form minority gov’t backed by Liberman, Arabs

Labor head says he and Gantz will form minority gov’t backed by Liberman, Arabs

Liberman issues denial, says his party won’t back any government it’s not a member of; asserts Peretz made statement to help Netanyahu, in return for support in presidential bid

Labour-Gesher-Meretz leader Amir Peretz in Jerusalem on February 28, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labour-Gesher-Meretz leader Amir Peretz in Jerusalem on February 28, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Amir Peretz on Friday said his left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance has agreed to form a minority government led by Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz after the March 2 elections, with outside backing from the nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party and the predominantly Arab Joint List.

“First we’ll swear in a government of Labor-Gesher-Meretz with Blue and White with Yisrael Beytenu and the Joint List supporting from outside. I’ll take on the role of mediator, as the responsible adult, and work to expand the government after its swearing in,” Peretz said at an event for party activists.

He said the government would focus on the peace process with the Palestinians, pass a “social” budget and appoint an Arab minister.

Liberman, whose right-wing secularist party is forecast to again emerge as coalition kingmaker after the elections, denied he would back such a government and accused Peretz of trying to dent support for Yisrael Beytenu.

“The Labor Party leadership of blessed memory is so frightened and scared that it is prepared to lie,” Liberman wrote on Facebook. “Yisrael Beytenu will definitely not vote for a government it isn’t a part of.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman attends a conference at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, on February 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He said Yisrael Beytenu had no pre-election agreements with any other party and claimed Peretz was in cahoots with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“According to information in our hands this whole move was coordinated from beginning to end with Netanyahu, in exchange for supporting Amir Peretz in the presidential race [next year],” Liberman said.

In an interview published only hours earlier Liberman said he will not back any candidate to become prime minister after next week’s election unless they meet his basic demands for a liberal Zionist government.

Liberman told Maariv that he still had not decided who he will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin to be given first chance to form a coalition after the elections, and that if no one fits the bill he could even consider putting his own name forward.

The Yisrael Beytenu on Wednesday rejected the possibility of joining a Gantz-headed minority government supported from outside by the Joint List, whose politicians he has long branded as “terror supporters.”

But he has also repeatedly said Netanyahu’s time as prime minister is ending.

Peretz’s comments led Netanyahu to tweet: “The truth has been revealed. Gantz has arranged a government with Meretz, the Joint List and Liberman. A government like this is a danger to Israel’s security.”

He implored Israelis to give his alliance of right-wing and religious parties a governing majority in next week’s election, as polls show it will come up short.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has repeatedly claimed Gantz will form a government after next week’s vote that is backed by the Joint List. Gantz has ruled out sitting in a coalition with the Joint List and asserted he will not need its support to assemble a government.

Election posters hung by the Blue and White party shows their candidate Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 18, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Peretz hit back at Netanyahu, citing the premier’s upcoming trial on corruption charges.

“A prime minister with three indictments who is dragging Israel to fourth elections is the true danger,” Peretz said.

The elections next week will be Israel’s third in less than a year, after the two first failed to produce a government, a first in the country’s history.

Opinion polls have shown Likud with a slight edge over Blue and White, though neither party was predicted to secure a majority with their respective allies, potentially setting up further political gridlock.

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