Report: Blue and White Badly Split Over Unity Issue

YERUSHALAYIM -
benny gantz
Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

With five days left to form a government, it appeared that Benny Gantz would have to report to President Reuven Rivlin that he was unable to form a government, Israeli media analysts said Friday. At a meeting of the leaders of Blue and White Thursday, only Benny Gantz expressed even limited enthusiasm for any form of a unity government with the Likud, Yisrael Hayom reported. All the other members of the quartet “cockpit,” as they dubbed themselves – Yair Lapid, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Yaalon – expressed opposition to the idea, with Yaalon saying that he would not serve in a government unless Gantz was leading it, the report said.

The only alternative left to Gantz at this point is to try and form a minority government with the help of the United Arab List and Yisrael Beytenu – but after this week’s flareup in Gaza, that alternative is no longer considered realistic, the report said. Meanwhile, the Likud’s bloc of 55 right-wing and chareidi MKs shows no sign of dissolving, closing off the possibility that Gantz could form a government with at least one of the chareidi parties – if their opposition to serving with Lapid could somehow be overcome.

The difference in opinion in the party may be too much for it to overcome. Kan News reported that the foursome disagreed about a number of issues, and the struggle to form a government was bringing them to the fore. Gantz’s advisors are recommending that he take a deal offered by Rivlin, which would see Netanyahu and he in a rotation agreement for Prime Minister, with Netanyahu serving first. Lapid has said that he would never accept that plan, and Gantz’s advisors said that he would be better off accepting it, even if it meant breaking up Blue and White, the report said.

Rivlin is set to meet with the heads of all parties next week in a last-ditch effort to persuade them to agree to join a government under a formula he proposed – with all coalition members at this stage dealing only with issues that all agree on, such as national defense, leaving the issues of religion and state to a later stage or another government. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to meet with Liberman on Sunday, but on Thursday cornered the Yisrael Beytenu head, demanding to know if he “is truly prepared to endanger the security of Israel by establishing a government that relies on Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh. Give me a straight answer – yes or no?”

In response, Liberman addressed Netanyahu, saying that “before you demand a commitment from me, commit to Israelis that you will not force them into a third election.” Regarding Tibi, Liberman said that “for years you have had a relationship with him, including signing the Wye Plantation agreement,” in which Israel ceded most of Chevron to the Palestinian Authority. “In April you tried to form a government with Labor’s Avi Gabay, with the support of the UAL, and your closest advisor, Natan Eshel, twice advocated working with them in 2015.”