In his first official statement about the prospects for a new government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday that it appeared that there was no choice but to set up a unity government. “During the election campaign I called for a rightwing government, but unfortunately, based on the results, it does not appear that that will be possible,” Netanyahu said. “Therefore, there is no choice but to establish a large unity government, as large as possible, that will include all groups who value the State of Israel.”
Netanyahu made the remarks before entering into a second meeting in as many days with the heads of the rightwing and chareidi parties. On Wednesday, the Likud said that Netanyahu intended to establish a rightwing bloc which would “travel together” in the coalition negotiations, ensuring that the interests of all parties were ensured and that all were represented in a new government.
Referring to that meeting, Netanyahu said Thursday that “I met with my partners and we have decided to work as a single bloc. Now I call on you, Benny Gantz, to establish the unity government with me, today. This is what the people want from both of us. We must show responsibility and work together. Benny, let us meet today, anytime, anywhere, in order to accomplish this important task,” the prime minister added.
As part of their meeting with Netanyahu, leaders of the rightwing and chareidi parties signed a document that says their candidate for prime minister is Netanyahu.
They said they would engage in joint coalition negotiations, adding that no party will go into any government without all the other parties. Shas Chairman Rabbi Aryeh Deri, who was not present at the meeting, approved the text by telephone and will sign later in the day.
Kan News reported that Netanyahu’s office has requested a meeting between the prime minister and Gantz for later Thursday.
With some 97% of the vote counted, Gantz’s Blue and White has emerged with a slight edge over the Likud, with the latest estimates giving that party 33 seats versus the Likud’s 32. Yisrael Beytenu was reduced to eight seats, while Shas and United Torah Judaism remain at nine and eight respectively. The United Arab List increases to 13. The rightwing bloc now has 56 seats, with 44 for Gantz, the Democratic Camp and Labor and 13 seats to the Arab List.