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.
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.
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.