Official: ‘Beginning of the End’ of Current Coalition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Likud poll
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met with former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Hadashot News reported, as top political officials told Yisrael Hayom that the coalition’s days were numbered. “It looks like the beginning of the end,” a senior government official was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is trying to break up the coalition, but he doesn’t want to ‘take credit’ for it. It’s not clear how much longer this can continue.”

Although he is not in the Knesset and not even a member of a political party, Gantz’s name has been bandied about as a potential candidate in both Likud and Zionist Camp. In polls that include his as part of their list, the electoral fortunes of each are enhanced; recent polls showed that Gantz is worth three to four Knesset seats for the Likud, and as many as 10 for Zionist Camp.

The report on Hadashot News said that he and Netanyahu did not discuss politics, but security issues, as the prime minister seeks the advice of senior IDF officials in his new role as defense minister.

Neither Netanyahu’s nor Gantz’s spokespeople have commented on that report, but political officials quoted by Hadashot News said that with elections becoming more likely all the time, a conversation about a Gantz role in the Likud was probably overdue.

After backing down on the Culture Loyalty bill earlier this week – and the decision to ask the High Court for an extension on resolving the Draft Law, a request that was filed Wednesday – Yisrael Hayom quoted the official as saying that the chances of the coalition surviving long-term were near zero. “There is a new drama every week, there are fights and deals, MKs are advancing laws and agendas independently.” Under such circumstances, it’s unlikely that the government can continue with a razor-thin majority of 61, the number left in the coalition with the departure of Yisrael Beytenu.

Even if the High Court accedes to the government’s request for a four-month extension on resolving the Draft Law – a very unlikely possibility, the official said – it will be impossible for any law to be passed on the matter. “There is no political solution, so they are just trying to buy time,” the official said. “The chareidim will vote against it, and even though Yair Lapid and Avigdor Liberman said they would support it, they are now backtracking, claiming that ‘deals’ are being made. Either way there will be no solution.”

In a speech in Eilat Tuesday, Kahlon said that he did not believe the government would be able to continue functioning. “I would rather decide as part of the coalition on a date for elections we can all agree on. If we don’t do this by agreement, it will be problematic for the economy,” he said.