Likud, Blue and White deny seeking to cancel September elections

Two largest parties reject TV report claiming behind-the-scenes legislative bid to avert national vote, form unity government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz, right. (Hadas Parush/Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz, right. (Hadas Parush/Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Likud and Blue and White parties on Sunday night denied a television report suggesting that officials were working behind-the-scenes to call a Knesset vote to cancel the September elections, paving the way for the formation of a unity government.

Channel 12 reported on Sunday that the two largest parties — holding 35 seats apiece — were considering a Knesset vote to scrap the elections, which would require backing from 80 of the 120 MKs, according to one legal opinion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud could then forge a unity government with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, averting the unprecedented second national ballot in a year, according to the TV report.

In late May, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and head to new elections on September 17, after Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition following the April vote.

Blue and White had rejected any political partnerships with Netanyahu’s Likud due to the looming corruption charges against the prime minister. And Netanyahu did not even attempt to court the centrist opposition party, vowing to form a right-wing government, though he also unsuccessfully attempted to draw the center-left Labor party into the fold.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turns to speak to Labor party leader Avi Gabbay, in the course of the Knesset vote to disperse and hold new elections, late on May 29, 2019. (Ynet screenshot)

The TV report cited members of other unnamed political parties saying that both Blue and White and Likud had courted them to support the cancellation of the elections. But the move currently has the support of only 74 lawmakers, it said.

It was not immediately clear whether the never-before-taken step was legally viable, as some legal officials rejected the option out of hand, and others said just 61 lawmakers could cancel the upcoming election.

“There is only one option to cancel the elections — that Netanyahu drops out [of political life] to deal with his legal issues and Blue and White leads a broad government,” Blue and White said in a statement after the report aired.

A Likud official told The Times of Israel that he was unaware of any such efforts.

Netanyahu failed to muster a majority coalition after Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman refused to join unless a bill on ultra-Orthodox enlistment was passed into law unchanged — which was opposed by the prime minister’s Haredi political allies — and after Labor’s Avi Gabbay rebuffed his overtures.

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