Netanyahu says he’s considering proposal to cancel September election

Knesset speaker says he found a legal way to nix new national vote, but it is unclear how PM could form a government without Blue and White, which rejects the plan as ‘spin’

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)
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)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will consider a proposal by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to cancel the September 17 elections, his Likud party said Tuesday.

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

The Knesset speaker later confirmed the report, tweeting: “I found a parliamentary framework and there is an option to cancel the most unnecessary elections in Israel’s history. It is our obligation to allow the 21st Knesset to keep working.”

The network reported earlier that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told politicians that calling off the vote isn’t legally possible, but Channel 12 later said a way may have been found to do so legally.

According to the purported plan, the Knesset Presidium would be 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.

A previous report said the move could be aimed at forming a unity government that includes both Netanyahu’s Likud party and its main rival, Blue and White.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Likud said Netanyahu “has great respect for… Edelstein and will consider his proposal in the coming days.”

Meanwhile, Blue and White rejected the move, calling it “more spin” from a prime minister who himself was responsible for the second elections within months  — the first such event in the nation’s history.

And Yisrael Beytenu, whose political wrangling with Netanyahu precipitated the new elections, said: “What is guiding Netanyahu tonight is not the good of the nation but the fear of losing power.” The party said Netanyahu was “beginning to realize” that Likud might lose power in the next election.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a faction meeting at the Knesset, on June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)”Netanyahu realized he’s going to lose the election and is now looking for magical solutions,” the centrist Blue and White said.

It was unclear how Netanyahu could form a government without the support of Blue and White, as he faces the same impasse which caused him to call new elections in late May.

Netanyahu currently has the support of exactly 60 MKs, and cannot from a government without 61. But not a single additional seat is likely to sway in his favor.

Senior legal sources quoted by Channel 13 news said Netanyahu’s push to cancel the September elections “seems like spin,” indicating the plan is likely to face significant legal hurdles. The TV channel also cited sources within Netanyahu’s Likud party as saying the chances for the vote actually being called off are slim.

The bid to scrap new elections was backed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the center-right Kulanu party, and Education Minister Rafi Peretz, chairman of the Union of Right-Wing Parties on Tuesday evening.

“The upcoming elections are unnecessary, expensive, and harmful to the economy,” tweeted Kahlon, who voted in favor of disbanding the parliament in May. “Any effort that will bring about their cancellation is welcome.”

It also received the surprise backing of former education minister Naftali Bennett, whose New Right party failed to clear the electoral threshold in April.

“To be clear: On a personal level, the repeat elections fell from the sky like a winning lottery ticket, but they are bad, bad for the State of Israel,” tweeted Bennett.

He urged Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to swiftly form a unity government.

“Sit all night, agree to a normal government, and cancel these stupid elections,” added Bennett.

On Sunday, both Likud and Blue and White denied another Channel 12 report suggesting they were seeking to cancel the election and form a unity government.

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Following April’s elections and after being tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government, Netanyahu failed to muster a majority coalition as Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman refused to join unless a bill on ultra-Orthodox enlistment was passed into law unchanged — a demand rejected by the prime minister’s Haredi political allies.

Instead of returning to the president, who could have tasked a different lawmaker with forming a coalition, Netanyahu, in an unprecedented move, convinced his partners to dissolve the Knesset and call a second election within six months.

The Kan public broadcaster reported Monday that on the day the 21st Knesset was dissolved last month, Netanyahu offered Blue and White chief Gantz a rotation deal for the premiership, in a Hail Mary bid to build a majority coalition. Gantz turned down the offer, the report said.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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