The leaders of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties on Wednesday were reportedly set to declare they would act as a unified bloc in the upcoming coalition negotiations and recommend Benjamin Netanyahu as the next premier. In exchange, they would demand the Likud leader commit to not forming a coalition without them.
An official from one of the right-wing parties said that such a united bloc would increase the right’s chances of forming the next government, the Walla news site reported.
Calling for meetings with Netanyahu were Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas, Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett of the New Right, Bezalel Smotrich of National Union and Rafi Peretz of Jewish Home.
With results signaling political deadlock, Netanyahu was expected to hold separate meetings with each faction. The party leaders were expected to ask the prime minister to commit to not forming a government without them, and in exchange, they would vow to recommend only him for the next prime minister. Some of the parties held preliminary talks to coordinate their positions, the report said.
With most votes counted, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White and the left-wing bloc had edged ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud and the right-wing bloc. As it stands, neither party can realistically form a coalition government without each other or Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, who as kingmaker has vowed he will force a unity government of Likud and Blue and White.
“If we act as one bloc with 55 or 56 seats, whoever wants to form a government will have to join us. Liberman has vowed that he wants a unity government with Likud and Blue and White but won’t be able to because of the bloc we’ll establish,” one party leader told Walla. “This situation will give Netanyahu a better chance of forming the next government than Benny Gantz.”
However, sources from the Yamina alliance, which comprised the New Right, Jewish Home and National Union until it announced its dissolution Tuesday night, told Haaretz on Wednesday that its members had “turned to the opposition.”
The New Right would not sit in a unity government headed by Gantz that included the left-wing Labor-Gesher and Democratic Camp parties, the sources said.
A unity government that included Likud and Blue and White would have no need for them to achieve a majority, and even if they wanted to join, they would be negotiating from an inferior position and would not acquire any significant portfolios, the sources said.
The right-wing leaders could instead present themselves as an alternative to Likud in such a situation, the sources said.
Yamina announced it would break into three factions Tuesday night, minutes after exit polls showed the party comfortably sliding into the Knesset. Faction leader Shaked informed Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein in a letter that the right-wing party was splitting back into New Right and Jewish Home as originally planned before the joint Knesset run. Shaked and Bennett will remain together as leaders of New Right party, while Rafi Peretz will lead the Jewish Home party.
Speaking to reporters at Yamina headquarters in Ramat Gan, Shaked said even though the parties were splitting up, they would negotiate a coalition agreement as a single bloc.
Shaked’s New Right, the National Union and the Jewish Home came together ahead of the election to run on a joint slate to ensure they all cleared the 3.25% electoral threshold.
As of noon on Wednesday, with 89.8 percent of votes counted, the Gantz-led center-left Arab bloc had a slight advantage over the Netanyahu-led right-religious bloc with 56 seats versus 55. In the middle are the nine seats of Yisrael Beytenu.
Blue and White was projected to secure 32 seats in the Knesset, edging ahead of Likud, which stood at 31 seats. Shas had nine, United Torah Judaism had eight and Yamina seven.