Desperation became the keynote of Wednesday’s last-minute efforts to avoid a second round of elections, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered Labor head Avi Gabbay a package of four ministerial positions to entice him into joining the coalition.
Labor party officials confirmed the offer to Ynet, but that when Gabbay convened a meeting of his 6-MK party, he hit a solid wall of opposition to the overture, as MKs Russo, Shaffir, Yachimovich, Peretz, Shmulik rejected the idea outright.
Subsequently, Gabbay said in a tweet: “Over the past month the Labor party has received several offers to join the government. The latest offer yesterday included a promise of a number of steps to safeguard democracy including nixing legislation to bypass [the High Court], for immunity [for the prime minister], personally-motivated legislation and more.”
“Members of the faction discussed the offer and we decided not to accept.”
Gabbay and his colleagues have been constant critics of Netanyahu, calling for his resignation amid corruption allegations.
Bystanders to the seemingly bizarre move could not restrain from commenting.
Blue and White’s Yair Lapid tweeted at Gabbay: “Even in Israeli politics there is a limit to the repugnance the public can take. I cannot believe you will do such a thing.”
From within the coalition could be heard the outraged howl of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, threatening, “We won’t be in the coalition without the finance portfolio.”
A spokesman for Netanyahu denied reports that he offered the Finance portfolio, while making no other comment on the proposed deal.
However, Likud MK Miki Zohar explained Netanyahu’s rationale, saying that he expected most of the Labor MKs to reject the offer, but hoped that Gabbay and the second-ranking party member Tal Russo would say yes.
“The strategy here is very simple,” he told Channel 13.
Likud believed Avi Gabbay “is finished in the Labor Party” after the dismal last election results. Meanwhile Tal Russo, who Gabbay dropped into the no. 2 spot using his chairman’s privilege, was seen as someone who could possibly be swayed.
“It was clear the four others would say no, and we could have possibly won Tal Russo and Avi Gabbay and then we’d have 62 [seats].”
Updated Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 2:37 pm updated info