Benny Gantz on Thursday called for negotiations between his Blue and White party and the Likud for the establishment of a government that he would head – but apparently on condition that the Likud drop Binyamin Netanyahu as its leader. At a pre-Rosh Hashanah event for party members, Gantz said “we cannot sit in a government with a prime minister who is subject to active indictments. We want a straightforward discussion with the Likud, the second-largest party in the Knesset.”
Just the Likud, Gantz stressed, saying that he was not interested in speaking with the bloc of religious and chareidi parties Netanyahu put together for the negotiation process. “I am optimistic and I believe we can come to an agreement, without prior conditions, without ‘spins,’ and without blocs. Come to the negotiating table and help build a true unity government,” Gantz appealed to Likud voters.
Gantz said that many in the Likud had the wrong idea about his party. “We are not just the ‘anybody but Netanyahu’ party,” he said. “We don’t attack people personally. We seek civil honesty and to fight corruption. Netanyahu was the one who brought us to the elections for the 21st Knesset in April and caused the elections for the 22nd Knesset just completed, and he is the only one with an interest in new elections, which could lead to a crisis.”
Meanwhile, in a radio interview Thursday, Avigdor Liberman seemed to soften his stance on demanding a unity government without the chareidi parties, expressing interest in speaking with Netanyahu about joining a coalition he would lead. “We are ready to talk on condition that the Likud ask to speak with us directly and openly, not behind the scenes, as has been the case until now.” Liberman, too, is interested in speaking only with the Likud, and not its other potential coalition partners, he told the Reka news network in a Russian-language interview.
Liberman also stressed that he was not working with Blue and White’s Yair Lapid to force a secular unity government. “That is fake news from the Likud. I have spoken to Lapid maybe three times since the beginning of 2019,” he added.