Four days before election deadline

Labor MK says he’s working to get support for Knesset speaker to form government

Omer Barlev declares tasking Yuli Edelstein with assembling coalition is ‘maybe the only possibility’ to avoid 3rd elections: ‘Everything is on his head’

Labor MK Omer Barlev attends an election campaign event in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Labor MK Omer Barlev attends an election campaign event in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

A Knesset member from the Labor-Gesher party said Saturday he is working to enlist support from fellow lawmakers for Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of the Likud party, to form a government.

After both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz failed to assemble a government following elections in September, responsibility for cobbling together a coalition shifted to the Knesset.

Any lawmaker who gets the backing of at least 61 MKs will then have 14 days to form a government. If no MK receives sufficient support by December 11, the Knesset will automatically dissolve and new elections called.

“I’m trying to advance a move to garner 61 signatures [of MKs] who will recommend to President Reuven Rivlin to task Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with forming a government,” MK Omer Barlev said at a cultural event in Tel Aviv.

“I really hope and believe that if the president tasks him with this, he’ll make the right choice,” the Labor-Gesher lawmaker added.

President Reuven Rivlin (R) and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on November 21, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Edelstein would need to tell Rivlin in writing that he is willing to accept the mandate.

Responding to Barlev’s comments, Edelstein’s office said that the Knesset speaker “has been making a major effort in the past few weeks to prevent elections, and is trying to mediate between all parties in the political system, as all party leaders know well.

“The only way to prevent these unnecessary and costly elections is through a unity government with a rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz. There are four days left to get together and do the only right thing for the State of Israel and its citizens,” the speaker’s office said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Edelstein, however, refused to explicitly say that he would not accept the mandate if 61 MKs were to recommend him.

Barlev said he hoped other parties would understand that recommending Edelstein “is maybe the only possibility” of staving off a third round of elections in less than a year, after the vote in September and an earlier one in April both failed to result in a government.

“He needs to be told that because he is Knesset speaker, everything is on his head,” Barlev said of Edelstein.

Barlev also stressed that his support of Edelstein stemmed from his position as Knesset speaker, and not from any partisan interest.

“I’m not getting into the internal struggle of Likud,” Barlev said, referring to Netanyahu and Edelstein’s party, which has seen calls for a leadership challenge after the premier’s consecutive failures to form a government. So far only Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar has publicly declared he will challenge Netanyahu for the chairmanship of the party.

A television report last month said Edelstein, Likud’s No. 2, is considering a leadership run and has been laying the groundwork for the move.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaking with then-education minister Gideon Sa’ar in the Knesset, October 16, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

With third elections appearing increasingly likely, Gantz and Netanyahu’s parties have traded blame over who is responsible for the impasse.

“We made every effort so a government will be formed and we won’t be dragged to elections. But from the first day [after the September 17 vote], Netanyahu aimed only for further elections,” Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah said at an event in Beersheba on Saturday.

Echoing that sentiment was Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir.

“Netanyahu decided to go to elections the day after the last elections because he didn’t like the results. From that same moment everything has been rigged,” he said in Ramat Gan.

Yoav Segalovitz is seen at a campaign event in Kibbutz Shefayim on February 8, 2019. (Adrian Sebal)

Yoav Segalovitz, a Blue and White MK and former head of the police’s anti-fraud unit, likened Netanyahu’s conduct to that of a “criminal organization.”

Speaking in Petah Tikva, Segalovitz accused Netanyahu, who faces corruption charges in three cases, of “using his governmental power to improve his personal, legal and political situation.”

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and called the charges an “attempted coup” by police and state prosecutors.

After neither Gantz nor Netanyahu secured a majority of Knesset seats together with their respective allies following the September election, the two have pledged support for a unity government of their two parties but accused each other of refusing to make necessary compromises to form such a coalition.

Despite the growing potential for third elections, a number of recent polls have indicated they would result in continued gridlock, potentially further extending the political impasse well into next year.

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