Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz told close associates he was “ready to make tough decisions in the coming days” as a third round of national elections looms, according to a Channel 12 report on Saturday. It was not clear as to what the decision would pertain.
The report came ahead of a December 11 deadline where, if no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset to form a government, elections will be called.
According to the Channel 12 report, Gantz also told associates that in the event of another election, which appears likely, he would abandon a rotation agreement for the premiership with Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, whose party is part of the Blue and White alliance. Lapid and Gantz reached the agreement in February ahead of the April elections and then into the September elections.
Both votes failed to deliver a government or break the political impasse.
On Friday, Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traded accusations over the failure to reach a compromise unity government and vowed to defeat each other in a new election.
After neither secured a majority of seats together with their respective allies in the September election, both Gantz and Netanyahu 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.
In a video published on Friday, Netanyahu said his Likud party had offered far-reaching compromises, but “Blue and White, Benny Gantz have not budged, not a millimeter, not even a nano meter.”
“And so, to my sorrow, we are sliding toward a completely unnecessary third elections that none of us want, but if they will be forced on us, we will win and win big,” Netanyahu said.
Gantz, meanwhile, blamed Netanyahu for the impasse, saying that while their many meetings in recent years had always been cordial, the one held earlier this week was different.
“This time Netanyahu came to blow up the proceedings. He’s not the same person I know, and I know him very well,” Gantz wrote in a Facebook post.
“Despite my hopes, Netanyahu did not offer anything new that would prevent unnecessary elections. He did not agree to give up immunity, his bloc (of 55 religious and right-wing parties), and of course he did not give up on his demand to be first in a rotation” of the prime ministership. (The reference to immunity relates to Netanyahu’s anticipated bid to seek immunity in the Knesset from prosecution in the three corruption cases for which charges have been issued against him.)
“Netanyahu did not win in April, he lost in September, and if he drags us there, we will defeat him in 2020,” Gantz vowed.
A recent poll showed Blue and White and Likud largely maintaining their current strength and little change in the makeup of the Knesset that has caused months-long political gridlock. According to the Channel 12 survey on Friday, Blue and White would win 34 seats (one more than it currently has), Likud would win 33 (also a one-seat boost), the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties would remain at its current 13, Yisrael Beytenu would keep its current 8, the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism would each win 8 seats, New Right on its own (outside the last election’s Yamina alliance with Jewish Home and National Union) would win 6 seats, while left-wing Labor and Democratic Union would each win 5.
If elections are held they will most likely be on March 3, the Knesset’s top legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, said Friday.
With a unity government looking unlikely, hopes for a narrow government have also faded.
Yisrael Beytenu party leader MK Avigdor Liberman declared that he will no longer agree to join any narrow government.
In excerpts from an interview published Thursday, Liberman said he would not be part of a narrow government — either right or left — because “the combination of dramatic defense and economic decisions with a narrow government is likely to create a large rift and polarization in the public.”
A narrow government is a government of “perpetual friction,” Liberman told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.
Since unity between Likud and rivals Blue and White is not happening either, “elections are coming,” he said.
Liberman campaigned on a unity government of his party, Likud, and Blue and White ahead of elections in September and has continued to push for such an arrangement amid the ongoing deadlock in coalition talks.
“To my regret, both of them [Gantz and Netanyahu] took a strategic decision to not go to unity, and therefore the two parties are responsible for another round of elections.”
“Our hands are clean,” he said.
Liberman accused Netanyahu and Gantz of playing the blame game and said that he had tried to push them into forming a unity government but now they are both looking to better their positions via another round of elections.
Netanyahu and Gantz, he said, are each relying on poll findings and hoping that they can win the next election — Netanyahu by leading a bloc of at least 61 seats and Gantz by getting at least 36 seats for his own party, a result which would better position him to negotiate a majority coalition without Likud in the 120-seat Knesset.