Netanyahu, Gantz deny reports of unity government, rotation deal

PM says Likud never approached centrist Blue and White party in bid to prevent new elections, as Knesset legal adviser said to conclude move wouldn’t be legal

Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Gili Yaari, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Benny Gantz, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right. (Gili Yaari, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz on Wednesday denied reports that they were seeking to form a unity government in a bid to cancel the upcoming elections.

The Kan public broadcaster had reported earlier Wednesday that senior Likud officials proposed a unity government deal to Blue and White that would see Netanyahu and party leader Benny Gantz rotating in the role of prime minister.

“At no point was a rotation offer made, and up until now, there has been no contact between Likud and Blue and White,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “I have no intention of abandoning my natural partners in a right-wing government.”

A separate statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party also denied the report.

Gantz similarly called it a “total lie,” with his party saying no such offer was received from Likud.

Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid said the party would support calling off the September 17 elections and leading a unity government, but only if Netanyahu — who is facing indictments in three corruption cases — steps down as prime minister.

Kan’s report came as talk of canceling elections has ramped up in recent days, though the legality of the move remains questionable.

Blue and White co-chairman Yair Lapid at the opening session of the new Knesset on April 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced he would “consider” a proposal by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to cancel the September 17 vote, called last month after he failed to form a coalition following the April election.

That statement came after Channel 12 news reported that Edelstein had launched a “substantial” push to revoke the new national vote through Knesset legislation.

The network reported that a workaround plan could see the Knesset Presidium convened to cancel parliament’s current hiatus. A new law would then be introduced that enables parliament to cancel elections.

However, such legislation would require broad support of at least 80 MKs, which would mean gaining the support of Blue and White and other allies.

It is not clear whether such a move is legally possible, after the legislature voted in late May to disband. On Wednesday, Channel 13 reported that Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon was drafting an opinion saying there is no legal basis for canceling the September 17 elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on October 27, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has already told politicians that calling off the vote wasn’t legally possible, Channel 12 has reported.

According to Kan, the overtures to form a rotation with Gantz have reportedly been made with the approval of Netanyahu, in a repeat of the deal reportedly offered to Blue and White on the day the 21st Knesset was dissolved last month.

The report said Netanyahu offered Gantz the rotation deal for the premiership last month, in a Hail Mary bid to build a majority coalition, but the Blue and White leader turned down the offer.

Likud MK Miki Zohar, a Netanyahu loyalist, appeared to confirm the reports, telling Kan that “we have currently not ruled anything out to prevent this election.”

It is not clear how such a rotation would work, with Gantz and Lapid having already agreed to split the premiership.

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