Yamina head Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against discarding the bloc of religious and right-wing parties formed at his initiative, as Likud sought to forge a unity government with Blue and White.
Blue and White has insisted that its coalition talks are with Likud alone, but Likud representatives have said that they are also negotiating on behalf of its partners: Shaked’s far-right Yamina party and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties.
“If there is a betrayal of the ideological right and religious Zionism, everyone will bear the consequences,” Shaked told Radio Jerusalem. “We will be a combative opposition, and the Likud party will have to explain to the right-wing camp why it is dismantling the right-wing government and throwing the right-wing into the opposition.”
Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White jousted Tuesday about whether or not coalition negotiations between them also included Netanyahu’s bloc of right-wing religious parties, a short while after teams concluded a meeting in a long-shot effort to break the political deadlock in the wake of last week’s national elections.
The two leaders are slated to meet at Rivlin’s residence on Wednesday eve. Rivlin has until October 2 to charge one of them with the task of building a majority coalition.
Talks have centered around the possibility of a rotational premiership, with a number of ideas being put forward amid a dispute over who will take the seat first, according to reports.
Gantz has insisted that he head any unity government and ruled out sitting with Netanyahu due to his pending indictment on graft charges. In the final weeks of the election campaign, Gantz also vowed to form a “secular” government and rejected partnering with Shas and UTJ.
After Monday’s meeting, Blue and White said Gantz had told Netanyahu unity was not possible unless he stepped down as prime minister.
Netanyahu last week had the Yamina, Shas and UTJ parties sign an agreement with his Likud party to negotiate as a group, after elections that saw the right-wing and religious parties fail to garner enough support to form a coalition on their own. Gantz and his center-left partners also fell short of the needed 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset, leaving the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party in the kingmaker position with eight seats.
Netanyahu has assured his religious right-wing political partners that he will stick to his pact to negotiate as a bloc with them. At the same time, Gantz has told his party members that he will not abandon his promise to the voters not to let Netanyahu remain prime minister, in an indication that the political gridlock that has left Israel without a government for months could persist.
Sources in Blue and White quoted by Hebrew-language media insisted that they were holding unity talks with only Likud and not the entire right-wing ultra-Orthodox bloc.
“We are not in talks with the right-wing and Haredi parties. Netanyahu knows that we won’t be in government with Yaakov Litzman [UTJ] and Bezalel Smotrich [Yamina]. The talks are with Likud and not the bloc,” a party source was quoted telling the Ynet news website.