A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz ended on Sunday evening without any sign of progress in resolving the issues that have prevented a unity government.
It was the first time the two have met for direct discussion since Gantz was given the mandate to form a government after PM Netanyahu was unable to during the allotted 28-day period.
Spokespersons for both sides said the meeting focused on potential solutions to the stalemate that has frozen Israeli politics for months, though no specifics were given.
Gantz and Netanyahu said that they plan to meet again soon.
Earlier in the day, delegates for the two parties met, but the issues of power-sharing were left unsolved. Blue and White continued to insist that Likud negotiate on its own, rather than as a 55-member bloc of right and religious parties; Likud again refused to break ranks.
Likud negotiator Yariv Levin openly questioned the sincerity of Blue and White:
“Every citizen in the state of Israel – and there are many concerned citizens today – wants to receive a clear answer to whether Blue White’s offer for a broad unity government [is genuine] or it’s an offer to hold ‘as if’ negotiations here and hold other negotiations with Ayman Odeh to form a unity government where there will be unity between them and the [Arab] Joint List and not between all the Jewish people and between all the parties that believe in the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. These are the two questions that we will present at the opening of the meeting and I hope we will finally receive answers.”
Amid intense speculation about whether Gantz would opt for a minority coalition with outside support from the Arab Joint List, some of his party members were voicing their opposition to such a scenario.
A deal with the Arab MKs might even split the party, as a source told The Jerusalem Post, and could prompt Telem, the right-wing party with four seats in the Blue and White list, to leave.
MK Zvi Hauser said that Blue and White will only sit in a coalition with “a party that supports the basic, foundational arrangement of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Those are the relevant parties to a unity government. We plan to work to form a large, Zionist unity government. There is no relevance to a narrow, troublesome government.”
Also on Sunday, Blue and White negotiators met with their Yisrael Beytenu counterparts, MK Oded Forrer and MK Alex Kushnir, to discuss a future government.
Forrer reiterated that Yisrael Beytenu seeks a unity government with both Blue and White and Likud in it.
Whatever their differences on security and economic matters, “in most matters of religion and state, Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White see eye-to-eye,” Forrer said. Both parties have said they would not sit in a government with chareidim, and have pledged their support of policies anathema to the religious community, such as public transportation on Shabbos, drafting yeshivah students and civil marriages.