An idea floated Monday by Shas chairman Rabbi Aryeh Deri has gained momentum, to the extent that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supports it, according to new Likud whip, Miki Zohar. That idea – of a direct election runoff between Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz – could solve the riddle of how a government can be formed, given the deadlock in negotiations.
Deri proposed the idea during a meeting of the right-wing bloc on Monday. The results of such an election, Deri reasoned, would break the deadlock on negotiations, as it would defuse one of the main points of contention between Likud and Blue and White – who would serve as prime minister first in a rotation deal. Knesset members would continue to serve until the next Knesset election, scheduled for a bit more than four and a half years from now. Such an election would be far cheaper than electing a full Knesset, Deri said at the meeting.
Netanyahu is for the plan, Zohar told Yediot Acharonot Tuesday. “The Likud will request that if there are new elections, that they be held only for the office of prime minister, and we will also request that there not be a paid day off on the day of that election,” he said. “The Israeli economy has sustained enough damage from elections.”
New Right chairperson Ayelet Shaked said that she also supports the idea, and that a law to hold a special election for the post of prime minister was being worked on by Knesset committees already.
But in a statement, the Likud said that Netanyahu was actually not in favor of the idea. “The prime minister is not promoting this, but is concentrating on forming a national unity government with the support of many MKs. This is the only kind of government that Israel needs right now.”
Blue and White has not yet commented on the idea. Polls consistently show that Netanyahu is more popular personally than Gantz, and that he is preferred by a majority of Israelis to serve as prime minister. If such an election is held, it is not clear what the fate of the rotation agreement between Gantz and his number two, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.