‘Last-Ditch’ Unity Talks Set for Sunday

YERUSHALAYIM -
netanyahu
L-R: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, President Reuven Rivlin, Likud leader and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, at a meeting last week. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Negotiating teams for the Likud and the Blue and White party will meet again Sunday morning in what may be a last-ditch effort to work out a path to a unity government. Political observers believe that the meeting is “just for show,” and that the session is likely to end with a mutual agreement to disagree about moving forward. The main reason for the talks, analysts said, was to ensure that neither could be blamed for failing to form a government and causing elections, which would be the most likely outcome of a breakdown of talks.

Both sides blame the other for failure to progress. A report on Walla News quoted Likud officials as saying that Blue and White refused to accept the package deal suggested by President Reuven Rivlin, in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would take the first turn in a rotation agreement and step down for an extended time if he is indicted in criminal cases against him, with both parties and their respective blocs getting equal numbers of ministers and equal influence in policy-making. The officials said that Blue and White was insistent on a unity government led by Benny Gantz and dominated by Blue and White.

Officials in that party, meanwhile, accused the Likud of “not coming to the negotiating table with clean hands,” and insisted that the Likud drop its agreements with religious and chareidi parties. The Likud, in turn, accused Blue and White of trying to break up the Likud and its rightwing bloc.

Likud officials hinted that if Sunday’s negotiations did not make progress, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might inform Rivlin that he is unable to form a government, even before the start of Rosh Hashanah. However, “even if we do return the mandate to the president,” the Likud officials said, “we will turn over every stone in order to reach a unity government and prevent new elections.”