Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday night that he would not set up a national unity government with Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog.
In a YouTube clip, the prime minister promised that if he creates the next governing coalition, “it will be a nationalist government. There will not be a unity government, because there is no way to bridge between our positions and the anti-Zionist and radical positions of the Labor list.”
There has been some speculation that President Reuven Rivlin will push the two rivals to form a unity government.
In the short video, Netanyahu also said that Tzipi Livni’s decision to give up her rotation agreement with Herzog was a political exercise meant to increase the Zionist Union’s lead over Likud. He had previously said the move showed panic on the part of the Zionist Union.
Livni said earlier Monday that she felt the move would better serve the party’s goal of replacing Netanyahu’s Likud.
In a series of interviews, Livni said that Likud should look to her decision to learn about “responsible leadership.” She denied the timing of the announcement was “tactical,” but urged voters to elect her party, saying: “I did what I had to do, now it’s your turn.”
The Zionist Union dropped the bombshell with less than 12 hours remaining before the election, announcing that Livni would give up the rotation of the premiership with Herzog, an agreement the two made months ago when her Hatnua party merged with his Labor Party.
Addressing criticism from Netanyahu, who denounced the last-minute move as “panicking” and accused Livni and Herzog of “lying” to the public, Livni told Channel 2: “The Likud is getting up and screaming because Netanyahu has never come across a situation where a leader makes decisions for the good of the nation.
“Let them look at us and learn how responsible leaders behave,” added Livni, a former member of Likud.
Netanyahu and members of his party had also claimed that the last-minute move reflected the Zionist Union’s inability to withstand pressure.
In a separate interview with the Walla news website, Livni said that the announcement “is not a tactical process, and is not meant to generate anything.
“I am acting according to what’s right, as I have proven more than once,” she said. “We created a partnership that turned an unnecessary election into a historic election, and I [want to] clarify that we will do everything to replace Netanyahu.”
“I did what I had to do, now it’s your turn,” she said, in an appeal to voters on Facebook.
The dramatic announcement also drew fierce criticism from the Jewish Home and Yesh Atid parties, which accused Herzog of moving to form a national unity government with the Likud party.
To the left of the Zionist Union, Meretz’s Zahava Gal-on praised the decision as “a step in the right direction,” but continued to urge voters to vote for Meretz, which, based on recent polls, faces the prospect of failing to make it back into the Knesset.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.