President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday lamented the “troubled time” for Israel after months of political deadlock, accusing leading politicians of seeming to prefer “to go crazy” rather than compromise on a government.
After neither secured a majority of seats together with their respective allies in the September election, both Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have expressed their support for a unity government including both of their parties, but talks between them have failed to result in a coalition and they have traded blame for the impasse. On Tuesday, a meeting between Gantz and Netanyahu broke down after just 45 minutes.
If no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset by December 11, elections will be called for the third time in less than a year. If those third elections are called, the first possible date for them to be held would be February 25, 2020, according to a Knesset legal official.
Neither Likud head Netanyahu nor Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, has so far been able to form a government, though both have publicly said they want to avoid a third vote. Two rounds of elections in April and September failed to produce an elected government — a first in Israeli political history.
“I won’t be exaggerating if [I] say that this is a troubled time for the State of Israel,” Rivlin wrote in a series of tweets. “This is not a troubled time for one political side or the other. This is a troubled time for all of us.”
In a direct appeal to political leaders, Rivlin quoted a line from Israeli poet Haim Hefer — “We don’t want to sleep, we want to go crazy” — to describe the two months of coalition talks.
“You haven’t slept for two months already, and it appears to me [you] just want to go crazy,” the president said. “If that’s what you want, go crazy! But why drag the nation with you?”
As the Knesset has until next Wednesday for lawmakers to nominate a MK to form a government, Rivlin said there was still time to put Israel back on its “proper path.”
Reports in recent days have indicated that Likud is seeking a unity deal that would leave Netanyahu as prime minister for six months, after which Gantz would take over. Blue and White has reportedly expressed worries that Netanyahu will renege, after using the time to gain immunity from criminal charges hanging over his head.
A report Tuesday detailed a far-reaching deal that would see Netanyahu remain prime minister for 3-6 months, give Blue and White a trove of powerful ministries and have both sides back annexation of the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. But a number of sticking points meant the potential pact was still a long shot, according to Channel 13 news.
The parties have stepped up their attacks of each other, with Netanyahu on Wednesday saying his party was “ready for elections.”
“They’re not moving one millimeter. One nano-meter, they’re not moving,” Netanyahu told reporters, referring to Blue and White. “We made all kinds of proposals, with all kinds of ways to make sure that this unity government will be stable, but they are simply refusing.”
Netanyahu claimed that if a unity government proves impossible, “we are ready for elections, and we will win the elections.”
Gantz responded that the premier “has been digging in his heels and has not been offering anything new. That is not how you conduct negotiations. He needs to look me — and Israeli citizens — in the eye and say what he thinks and wants instead of shirking responsibility.”