On the day the 21st Knesset was dissolved last month and Israel headed to new elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly offered his chief rival, Benny Gantz, a rotation deal for the premiership, in a Hail Mary bid to build a majority coalition.
Netanyahu sent representatives on May 29 to convey to the Blue and White party chief the offer for a unity government, under which Netanyahu would first be prime minister, then Gantz, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday, citing senior sources in the Blue and White party.
Gantz turned down the offer, the report said.
“These are offers by Netanyahu, who was trying to save his skin on the eve of [calling new] elections,” Blue and White commented. “We treated it with the same level of seriousness that can be attributed to other spins and promises by Netanyahu.”
The premier’s Likud party flatly denied the report as a “total lie.”
Left-wing politicians reacted to the report by slamming the alleged offer.
Labor MK Itzik Shmuli said: “Netanyahu will do everything to escape justice, and will sell any job or national interest in exchange for a political shield from criminal indictments. We cannot cooperate with that, we must continue with full force toward replacing the leadership.”
Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg attacked Gantz for “flirting with the right,” arguing that voters who want a government without Netanyahu should support left-wing parties rather than the centrist Blue and White.
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 previous elections, in April.
Netanyahu had also unsuccessfully attempted to draw the center-left Labor party into the fold, with leader Avi Gabbay ultimately rebuffing his overtures.
Blue and White had rejected any political partnerships with a Netanyahu-led Likud, due to the pending corruption charges against the prime minister.
On Sunday, both Likud and Blue and White denied a Channel 12 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 and averting the unprecedented second national ballot within several months.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.