After dismissing the idea earlier this week, the Likud’s three coalition bloc partners – United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yamina – have decided to sign a document stating that they will recommend Binyamin Netanyahu for the office of prime minister, regardless of what transpires with government-formation efforts by either Netanyahu or Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, Yisrael Hayom reported.
Earlier in the week, bloc members had said that signing the document was premature, and that efforts should be made to form a government now, instead of anticipating the failure of Netanyahu and Gantz to form a government.
The document is aimed at the point in time when President Reuven Rivlin will open the government-formation process to any MK. If Netanyahu tells Rivlin that he is unable to form a government, the mandate transfers to Gantz, who will effectively have 21 days to form a government – and if he fails, Rivlin can appoint any MK to give it a try. The document set to be signed by all the coalition partners, as well as nearly all Likud MKs, states that even under those circumstances, they will recommend Netanyahu for prime minister – effectively closing off the possibility of anyone else forming a government, and forcing either new elections or further coalition negotiations.
The change of heart among the Likud’s partners was a result of the brouhaha in the party on Thursday, in which Netanyahu said that he was “considering” holding primaries in the coming days. According to Yisrael Hayom, the offer was not a genuine one – but a maneuver to expose individuals in the Likud seeking to rebel against the prime minister.
Indeed, it appeared that Netanyahu’s arch-rival, Gideon Saar, took the bait; moments after the party announced the possibility of primaries, Saar said in a social media post that he was “ready,” presumably to challenge Netanyahu in a primary.
Speaking to Channel 13, MK Miri Regev said that “we threw a balloon up in the air that there might be primaries, and the first to say he was ready was Gideon Saar. That means that the rumors that someone was trying to spark a revolt in the Likud was correct.”
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said “I don’t see any need for primaries. Netanyahu’s leadership is unshaken, and no one in the Likud would dare campaign against him.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper said, MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman has already signed the commitment to Netanyahu, while Shas’s Rabbi Aryeh Deri is set to do so on Friday. Yemina is still consulting on the matter but is expected to sign, Yisrael Hayom said.
In a social media post, Deri said that “I said before the elections that Shas would support Netanyahu, also after the 21-day period after he returns the government-formation mandate to the president. The two million people who essentially voted for Netanyahu for prime minister cannot be ignored. I am not worried about new elections, Shas will get stronger.” With that, he said, “I hope logic will prevail and a unity government is formed.”