It was set to be a routine negotiating session between teams of Likud and Blue and White officials as the latter’s head, Benny Gantz, seeks to forge a government led by him – but the session took on additional import as Gantz himself, accompanied by his partner Yair Lapid, attended the session. The Likud was not impressed, with a source quoted as saying that the reason Lapid attended the session was apparently “to make sure that Gantz does not agree to a unity government, since he is the one pushing for new elections.”
Likud MK Yariv Levin, who leads the Likud negotiating team, was not impressed either, saying that the arrival of the two top Blue and White figures was a “media stunt,” and that it was clear that the negotiations were going nowhere. “This is just public relations designed to hide the fact that Blue and White continues to refuse to accept the compromise recommended by President Reuven Rivlin, and instead seeks to form a minority government with the United Arab List,” Levin said after the meeting.
“I offered Gantz and Lapid my services as a translator of Arabic for their meeting with Ayman Odeh later, because apparently that is where the real negotiations are going to take place,” Levin added. The meeting between Gantz and Odeh is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Levin was pessimistic at the beginning of the meeting, as well. Speaking before the meeting, Levin said that the Likud team “is here with a heavy feeling that we are apparently engaging in ‘fake negotiations.’ Today we intend to again ask Blue and White if they are prepared to declare that they are not seeking to form a minority government that relies on Arabs and are ready for serious negotiations based on the framework laid out by President Reuven Rivlin. Unfortunately, I do not expect to hear an affirmative answer for that this time as well.” This is the second meeting between the two parties’ negotiating teams.
The Rivlin plan entails a unity government between the Likud and Blue and White, as well as any other parties that care to join, based on whether they are in the right or left bloc. Ministries would be split down the middle between the blocs, and Netanyahu and Gantz would enter a rotation agreement for the prime minister’s seat, with Netanyahu going first. If State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit recommends indictments after the hearing process going on now over the corruption cases Netanyahu is implicated in, the prime minister will suspend himself until the issues are resolved legally. At that point, Gantz will become acting prime minister.