A meeting Thursday between Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman – originally scheduled for Tuesday but delayed because of the rocket attacks on southern Israel – did not appear to bring the political conundrum that has prevented the establishment of a government closer to resolution. Speaking after the meeting, Liberman said that he felt that the meeting was “good,” but that “I am still awaiting a commitment from all the heads of Blue and White that they are ready to accept the president’s framework for the establishment of a unity government. I didn’t hear an outright ‘no,’ but I didn’t hear a positive response either.”
Analysts said that Liberman was most likely referring to Yair Lapid, who has vociferously opposed any compromise that would keep Binyamin Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office. The framework outlined by President Reuven Rivlin 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.
Gantz has been willing to accept the deal, and after the meeting said that he had made that clear to Liberman. “I am prepared to weigh any option regarding the issuance of an indictment” against Netanyahu. The prime minister, meanwhile, “is keeping his rightwing bloc intact, and it appears that he prefers new elections.” Gantz said that he and Liberman would meet again next week.
With that, time is quickly running out for Gantz to form a government; next week, the 21-day period he has to form one will end, and while Rivlin has the option of giving him another week, it does not appear that either side is going to compromise. Gantz said in his remarks Thursday that “nobody wants elections, and we will do what we can to prevent them until the last minute.”
Liberman, without whom neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can form a government, insists on a unity government based on the Rivlin plan, with the Likud entering the government without its chareidi and religious rightwing partners. Liberman on Wednesday reiterated that he would not join a government that was supported by Arab MKs from outside the government. Liberman was set to meet with Netanyahu later Thursday, but reports said that that meeting has been canceled.