‘Useless,’ ‘unhelpful’: Blue and White, Likud sources trash Liberman unity plan
'We don't need him to tell us what the sticking points are'

‘Useless,’ ‘unhelpful’: Blue and White, Likud sources trash Liberman unity plan

Yisrael Beytenu leader has called for Gantz to relinquish first place in premiership rotation and for Netanyahu to give up on right-wing bloc

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting at Neve Ilan, west of Jerusalem, on September 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks at a faction meeting at Neve Ilan, west of Jerusalem, on September 22, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Sources from both Blue and White and Likud on Thursday denounced Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman’s plan, unveiled the previous night, to form a unity government with the two leading parties, calling his proposal an unrealistic, feeble attempt to break the ongoing deadlock in talks.

Officials from both parties told The Times of Israel that Liberman’s “unity plan” — which would involve Blue and White leader Benny Gantz giving up on going first in a rotation deal for the premiership and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud giving up his bloc of right-wing parties — states the obvious without offering any new ideas.

“We know what the sticking points are; we don’t need Liberman to tell us,” one Blue and White MK said. “It’s useless to say these are the issues that need to be resolved. You need to come up with creative solutions if you really want to solve anything.”

Another Blue and White party official speculated that the purpose of the Yisrael Beytenu chief’s proposal was “to remind people that he’s here” — not to help the two sides reach an agreement.

“He wants to help one person: Avigdor Liberman. If he were serious then he would present something serious,” they said.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (right) holds his party’s petition against genetic testing for Jewishness on April 7, 2019 (Yisrael Beytenu)

Likud officials, who have insisted that the party also represent the far-right Yamina and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism factions in negotiations –were similarly unimpressed.

“The issue is not that we are negotiating as a bloc,” one Likud official said. “The issue is that [Blue and White] won’t accept Netanyahu.”

“What is he proposing here?” another source from the party asked. “That we all accept his agenda, regardless of what the people who elected us want?”

In a post on Facebook Wednesday night, Liberman suggested that as a first step, representatives of the two major parties plus his own get together to hash out the guiding principles of a future unity government.

“First and foremost we have to clearly define all the issues on the agenda — security, economy, social and church and state,” he wrote.

Liberman said that should such an agreement be reached, they should then adopt President Reuven Rivlin’s proposal for a power-sharing compromise.

Rivlin had suggested 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.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (L), President Reuven Rivlin (C) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meet at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

A third stage proposed by Liberman would see the new government pass the budget and a multi-year defense plan.

It would then, in the fourth stage, allow other parties to join the coalition if they agreed to the government’s guiding principles, Liberman said.

Despite his legal woes — he is facing pending corruption charges in three cases — Netanyahu was 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, and was given 28 days to do so. Gantz heads a bloc of 54 MKs from the center, left and Arab parties, but the 10 Arab MKs in that group would not join a Gantz-led coalition. Neither candidate has a clear path to a 61-strong Knesset majority without the other.

Liberman insisted that his party would not join a narrow right-wing or center-left government.

The Likud party immediately rejected Liberman’s proposal, saying he had “not brought anything new,” while Blue and White welcomed it in an official statement, saying it saw his party as a prospective coalition partner, though by the next morning MKs were decidedly less enthusiastic.

Likud and Blue and White have accused each other of intransigence in the coalition talks and claimed that the other side was pushing the country toward an unprecedented third election in under a year.

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