Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu has again proposed a coalition deal to Defense Minister Benny Gantz whereby the Blue and White chief would become prime minister, it was reported Friday.
Unnamed sources close to Gantz, who himself did not comment on the Channel 12 report, confirmed that the defense minister met with Netanyahu at the end of the most recent Knesset session, saying it was part of attempts to shore up support for a law that regulates exemptions from army service for many members of the ultra-Orthodox community.
However the report said that at the meeting, Netanyahu made the proposal to Gantz whereby “the coalition will be right-wing, but you will stand at its head.”
The report did not clarify whether this was to be a rotation agreement. The offer was presumably made on the basis of the government failing to pass a pair of budget bills in three readings in the Knesset plenum by a November 4 deadline, which would automatically dissolve parliament and trigger elections.
Recent months have seen several reports claiming that the Likud leader was courting the Blue and White chairman to bolt Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition and instead join the opposition chairman in forming an alternative government.
Gantz and Netanuahu also reportedly spoke ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday at the start of the month, to exchange traditional greetings, Channel 12 said.
Netanyahu ally MK Miki Zohar told the outlet on Friday that the proposal was the only chance Gantz had of becoming premier.
“If there is an election, I believe the public will return its support [to Likud] and even increase it so this is the surest way to return to the leadership of the state,” Zohar said. “The other ways, whether via Gantz or another route, are much more complex. Gantz has one slim chance of being prime minister, and if he does not take this opportunity, then he will never be prime minister.”
The report of the proposal came days after Netanyahu went on the offensive against Gantz when the defense minister said he was prepared to accept a scenario in which the US negotiates a fresh nuclear deal with Iran, and in the wake of back-to-back terror attacks in Israel. The comments marked the first personal attacks against the defense minister by Netanyahu since the new government was formed.
Netanyahu and Gantz were coalition partners in the previous government, but it collapsed last year after the former refused to pass a budget, in an attempt to block the latter from becoming prime minister in their previously agreed upon rotational deal.
Whenever asked about the Likud offers, Gantz has repeatedly said he was not interested and that Netanyahu could not be trusted.
However, the two have also been seen rubbing elbows at public events in recent months, pouring more fuel onto speculation that Gantz might indeed jump ship.