Israelis can expect a very active news week on the political front. With just three days until the deadline for the establishment of a government, all eyes are on Benny Gantz, with the question on everyone’s lips – will he or won’t he establish a government that relies on the votes of Arab MKs to govern?
While Gantz has had no success in breaking up the bloc of 55 right-wing and chareidi MKs who, with the Likud, have said that they would vote down any government offered by Gantz, the math involving an alternative government is just as complicated.
Yisrael Hayom reported Sunday that both Gantz and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman would much prefer a unity government with the Likud – but only the Likud, and not its bloc partners. The report said that Gantz would close deals with Labor, the Democratic Camp, the United Arab List and Yisrael Beytenu – and present it to Netanyahu, with the message that this is the government that will take control unless he agrees to join Gantz and Liberman.
If Netanyahu refuses, however, Gantz is prepared to move ahead with a minority government, consisting of fewer than an outright majority of 61 MKs. The government would include Blue and White and Labor, along with four members of the UAL and two of the five members of the Democratic Camp – which will not include Meretz MKs, with whom Liberman refuses to sit in a government.
Yisrael Beytenu will actively vote to form the government, on condition that he is given an important ministry. Assuming that the UAL members supporting the government vote to award Liberman a Ministry, Gantz would be able to cobble together a coalition of 56 MKs – one more than the right-wing bloc, the report said.
The latter is not at all a given. UAL sources told Yisrael Hayom Sunday that while they were willing to support a Gantz premiership, it was on condition that Liberman was not included – and that was the position of all factions of the party. “All the speculation that we will support a minority government that includes Evet Liberman is just more spin from Netanyahu,” the source said. “The only way we would support a Gantz government is if it included Labor and the Democratic Camp. We will not cooperate with Liberman, case closed.”
Reports Sunday also said that Blue and White officials were desperately looking for Likud MKs who would be willing to support a Gantz government, in order to stave off the need to rely on Arab MKs.
Under current election law, any MK who jumps to another party is ineligible to run for another Knesset seat, unless one third of their Knesset faction does so. It was that law that prevented Netanyahu from convincing even one opposition member to join his coalition of 60 MKs after the April elections.
Kan News reported that in order to enable Gantz to convince MKs to jump ship, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer would this week try to pass legislation in the Knesset to annul that law. Even with that, “the chances of breaking up the bloc are nil,” the report said. “In addition, if the law is changed, Netanyahu will be able to use it to break up Blue and White,” which is much riper for a breakup than the Likud, it said.
Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich, meanwhile, attributed the entire story of an Arab MK-supported minority government to “hysteria,” that he refused to join. “I believe there is a zero chance that this will happen, for many reasons,” he wrote in a social media message Sunday, adding “and if it does happen, it will last for maybe a few months. If the right-wing bloc maintains its solidarity in the opposition this government will fall quickly, and the right will win the next election and return to rule the country for many years to come.”