Two months after the elections for the 23rd Knesset, Israel appeared no closer to the formation of a government, two days before the deadline for Blue and White head Benny Gantz to do so. Avigdor Liberman remains the key; only with Yisrael Beytenu’s eight seats could Gantz or Binyamin Netanyahu form a government. And on Monday, pressure appeared to be growing on chareidi parties to compromise on some of their positions to persuade Liberman to join a Netanyahu-led coalition.
In a series of interviews on Monday, Likud whip MK Miki Zohar said that “the only option is for Liberman to join the right. A unity government is not on the agenda, the other side wants a minority government with the Arabs.” When asked how Liberman could join a government with a large representation of chareidim after quitting a similar government earlier this year, Zohar said that Liberman was justified in some of his demands. “I think we need to pass the Draft Law,” he told Channel 20. “If the chareidim don’t compromise we will all end up in the opposition and the voters who sent their representatives to the Knesset will lose out.”
Liberman said in interviews Sunday that he would wait until the last minute – Wednesday at midnight, when Gantz’s mandate was up – to announce whether he would join a Gantz government, supported from outside the coalition by Arab MKs, or a government headed by Netanyahu and consisting of the chareidi/rightwing bloc. If he chooses neither, new elections will be practically guaranteed.
Over the weekend, Liberman met with both Gantz and Netanyahu, and is set to meet with the prime minister again Monday. In a speech at an emergency rally Sunday night, Netanyahu pilloried Gantz, demanding that he back off the idea of setting up a minority government based on Arab MKs’ support – but he did not mention Liberman as an “enabler” of this process, as he has been doing until now. Analysts attributed this to the possibility that Liberman was now strongly considering joining a Netanyahu-led government.
Zohar said in the interview that he was “happy that Liberman is coming to his senses and is not prepared to enter into this dangerous game. If Liberman allows it, we will get this minority government.”