Before he was officially tasked with forming a government, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz looked at the possibility of attempting to form a minority coalition that would include Labor-Gesher, ultra-Orthodox parties and New Right, Channel 12 reported Friday evening.
Blue and White was said to hope such a coalition could be backed from outside by the Yisrael Beytenu party of Avigdor Liberman — who has repeatedly ruled out sitting with Haredi parties.
Blue and White put out feelers to Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni and New Right’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, but was rebuffed, the report said.
Immediately after receiving the mandate to form a government from President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday evening, Gantz began speaking with party leaders and inviting them to meet to negotiate their potential entry into the Blue and White-led coalition he hopes to establish, while also setting up meetings between his party’s negotiating team and other parties’ counterparts.
On Thursday, Channel 12 reported that one of the “compromise deals” Blue and White could propose to Likud would force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to choose between including his religious allies in the coalition, and being prime minister first in any rotation deal.
Likud has stressed that Netanyahu is negotiating on behalf of the 55-member bloc of right-wing and religious parties loyal to him, without whom he will not enter a coalition. Blue and White has previously rejected this negotiation position outright.
Thursday’s unsourced report said that Blue and White was intending to “expose the true face” of Netanyahu and force him to reveal “whether he really wants unity or elections at any cost.”
It said Blue and White was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s conduct in the 24 hours since Gantz was tasked with forming the government.
“They expected there to be some party leaders in the right-wing bloc who agree to meet them independently,” but they all declared loyalty to Netanyahu and said he represents them in the negotiations, the report said.
In a speech on Wednesday evening after being tasked with forming the coalition, Gantz promised to build a government of national reconciliation and said he would invite Netanyahu and Likud to be part of it.
Gantz, like Netanyahu who failed before him, has 28 days to try and form a government, though the prime minister-designate is seen as being no more likely to succeed in that task.
With Gantz’s appointment, Netanyahu, for the first time in his 10 years of consecutive rule as prime minister, saw his exclusive control over Israel’s political system wrested from his hands.
Netanyahu was initially tasked by Rivlin with trying to form a government based on the strength of his pact with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties to negotiate as a bloc of 55 MKs of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers after September’s inconclusive elections (Likud: 32; Shas: 9; United Torah Judaism: 7 and Yamina: 7).
Gantz heads a bloc of 54 MKs from the center, left and Arab parties (Blue and White: 33; Labor-Gesher: 6; Democratic Camp: 5; and 10 out of 13 MKs from the mainly Arab Joint List).
If Gantz fails to cobble together a coalition during his 28-day window, which ends November 20, a majority of lawmakers in the 120-member Knesset could try to endorse any Knesset member — including Netanyahu and Gantz — as prime minister. A leader has never before been elected during that time period in Israel. If that fails, the country would be forced into the unprecedented scenario of a third election in under a year.