Netanyahu won’t rule out ‘broad’ government with center-left — report

PM insists Blue and White’s place in his next coalition would be ‘in addition to, not instead of’ Likud’s ‘natural’ right-wing partners, likely making such a pairing impossible

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on July 23, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on July 23, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said he would not rule out a “broad” coalition government that includes elements of the center-left.

Netanyahu has vowed that he would not forge a unity government with chief rival Blue and White, but in a private conversation reported in Hebrew media, he expressed a willingness to form a government with the centrist party and those to its left.

But, he added, his government would be based first and foremost on Likud’s “natural” partners, right-wing and Haredi parties.

Netanyahu’s comments were made in a closed meeting on Monday while the prime minister was on a state visit to Ukraine, according to the Hebrew-language media reports.

Any center-left parties that seek to join a Likud-led coalition would come “in addition to” the right and ultra-Orthodox factions, “not instead of them,” he reportedly said.

He specifically named the Labor-Gesher and Blue and White parties, the reports said.

Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White party, speaks outside the Central Elections Committee in Jerusalem, August 1, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

A Likud spokesperson did not deny the comments were made but noted that the the quotes attributed to the premier referred to a “wide government” and not a “unity” government.

A unity government would imply a government founded on an equal partnership between Likud and its primary challenger Blue and White.

“Likud is interested in forming a right-wing government,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel. “Only a strong Likud can ensure that a right-wing government is formed.”

It was not clear how Netanyahu intended to keep his government purely right wing while also allowing in centrist and left-wing parties, which would likely demand some influence or say in government decisions in exchange for being in his coalition.

Netanyahu’s reported comments appeared to be a response to the growing popularity of Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, who has made forcing a unity government of Likud and Blue and White a centerpiece of his campaign.

Liberman’s refusal to join a right-Haredi coalition in May torpedoed the formation of a coalition and led Netanyahu to call new elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leader of the Yisrael Beytenu political party Avigdor Liberman on May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman’s five-seat faction has now doubled its size according to recent polls, upping the chance that Netanyahu will not be able to form a coalition with only right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Liberman has promised his voters he would force Likud and Blue and White, which has even less chance of cobbling together a like-minded coalition, according to polls, to form a shared unity government, possibly with a rotating premiership.

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz has repeatedly said he would not serve as a junior partner in a Netanyahu-led coalition government, and has conditioned a unity government on Likud’s ousting of scandal-plagued Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has insisted he is not interested in a unity government.

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