Ayelet Shaked, whose New Right party was the only right-wing religious party not to sign a new loyalty pledge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, has explained the decision by saying that signing a previous document sufficed.
“Enough with these signings,” Shaked told the Kan public broadcaster in a radio interview Thursday. “Married couples don’t reaffirm their marriage contract every time. We are part of the right-wing bloc, a bloc of 55 lawmakers who are working together and conducting negotiations jointly. There is no need to sign a new document every two days.”
The leaders of the other right-wing religious parties a day earlier signed onto a pledge put forward by Netanyahu in which they vowed not to join a minority coalition backed by the Joint List alliance of majority-Arab parties.
The move came as coalition talks continued to appear to stagnate and as reports swirled over the possibility of the creation of a minority government led by the centrist Blue and White party and supported from the outside by the Joint List and the secularist right-wing Yisrael Beytenu. A report Wednesday also suggested that Blue and White head Benny Gantz could be mulling joining a government headed by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism along with the national religious Jewish Home and National Union parties all agreed to sign onto the pledge vowing to stay away from a minority coalition led by Blue and White, Netanyahu’s spokesman said in a statement.
The statement added that New Right leader Naftali Bennett was the only right-wing slate leader who didn’t initial the document because he was in the United States, and in fact Bennett tweeted against such a scenario hypothesized in Netanyahu’s pledge hours earlier on Wednesday. But Shaked on Thursday explained that the party refused to sign.
The leading option for a coalition has been a proposal by President Reuven Rivlin for a unity government in which power would be equally divided and Netanyahu and Gantz would each serve two years as prime minister. Rivlin implied, but did not specify, that Netanyahu would take an open-ended leave of absence if he is indicted in one or more of the probes in which he faces charges. Under the arrangement set out by Rivlin, Gantz, as “interim prime minister” in such a scenario, would enjoy all prime ministerial authority.
Hebrew media has speculated that an indictment against Netanyahu will be filed before the end of the year. Meaning that in Rivlin’s proposal, Gantz would only have to serve under Netanyahu for a month or two before replacing the Likud leader.
In Thursday’s interview, Shaked said regarding the coalition negotiations that Gantz, a newcomer to politics, “should be second in the rotation so that he sits for a while at the government table and understands how that works. I think that’s in his interest and in the country’s interests. Come sit and learn how it works and then take the reins. I think that’s a very fair offer.”
At no point since last month’s election has Gantz expressed any intention to form a minority coalition with Labor and the Democratic Camp (44 Knesset seats in total) with the outside support of the Joint List and Yisrael Beytenu, who would agree not to vote to topple the government — the scenario outlined in the Netanyahu-initiated pledge signed by leaders of United Torah Judaism, Shas, and Jewish Home-National Union, representing 20 seats in total.
The idea of such a minority coalition has largely been raised by reports in the Israel Hayom daily, which is widely viewed as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has just over a week to cobble together a coalition before Rivlin is expected to task Gantz with forming a government, with talks reportedly at an impasse.
On Wednesday evening, Channel 12 reported that Gantz was warming up to the idea of serving in a coalition along with Netanyahu, despite having vowed not to do so during the election campaign.
According to the network, Gantz has been telling confidants that his party will “hold their noses for a number of months” and adopt Rivlin’s proposal for a power-sharing compromise.
“At the end of the day, Netanyahu has an expiration date,” Channel 12 quoted Gantz as telling confidants.
Gantz is expected to face a tough time forming a government of his own because of an earlier pledge signed by the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing parties to only join a Netanyahu-led government.
Netanyahu has sought to press Blue and White to join a coalition led by him and including right-wing and Haredi parties. Gantz has so far refused to sit in a coalition with Netanyahu as long as the Likud leader faces corruption indictments, and is also unwilling to join a government comprised of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties. Blue and White has said a unity government with Likud could be formed “within an hour” if Netanyahu steps down.
Netanyahu’s deadline for trying to form a governing coalition is October 24. At that point, Rivlin may grant Netanyahu a 14-day extension, though this is seen as unlikely due to his low chances of success.