Progress Reported in Blue and White-Yisrael Beytenu Talks

YERUSHALAYIM -
Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz arrives for a meeting with Israel Beyteinu representatives for negotiations toward building anew government, at the Kfar Maccabia Hotel in Ramat Gan, on November 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

While the two major parties, Likud and Blue and White, remained stalemated, the latter was at least able to make some progress with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu on Thursday.

Understandings were reached on raising benefits for the elderly and the disabled, according to a report in Maariv citing sources in Yisrael Beytenu, though other issues were left for further negotiations.

A joint official statement released after the meeting was more circumspect, avoiding such terms as “progress” or “understandings.”

“During the day the negotiation team discussed key issues on the agenda, in order to move forward with formulating the principles of a broad, liberal national unity government,” the parties said in a statement.

The parties agreed to support a minimum monthly pension increase for the elderly to 70 percent of the minimum wage, currently NIS 5,300 ($1,515) a month, and undertook that a promise of expanded benefits for people with disabilities would not be ditched due to expected spending cuts in the next state budget.

“The big gaps between the parties remain intact,” Likud and Blue and White said after their negotiating teams met Wednesday. They described the atmosphere of the talks, however, as “good, serious and interesting.” A follow-up meeting will take place “in the coming days,” they said.

One of the gaps may be connected to the chareidi parties. Both Gantz and Liberman have said they will not sit in a government with the chareidim, but sources in Yisrael Beytenu told Maariv that they suspect Blue and White of secretly negotiating with the chareidi parties.

Meanwhile, United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said on Wednesday that the religious parties will not compromise on the paramount issues of military draft, public Shabbos observance and other elements of the decades-old status quo.