Report: Netanyahu Willing to Concede on Immunity But Blue and White Still Not Happy

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

With one day left until the dispersal of the Knesset, Kan News reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to a condition set by Blue and White’s Benny Gantz Monday as a condition for the establishment of a unity government. But it turned out that the condition set by Gantz was not quite what he had led the Likud to believe, senior Likud officials said.

“Senior Likud members on Monday contacted Blue and White and offered that Netanyahu would agree not to pursue Knesset immunity on the charges against him, as Gantz demanded, and that Gantz from his side would agree to serving under Netanyahu for six months in a rotation agreement, after which he would be Prime Minister,” wrote Ze’ev Kam, political reporter for Kan News, in a social media post.

“The response they received from Blue and White was that surrendering on immunity would allow for negotiations to be reopened, but nothing more. So the Likud said ‘thanks but no thanks,’” he wrote.

Speaking at a faction meeting Monday, Gantz addressed Netayahu directly, saying “If you give up immunity we are partners for a deal. You dragged us to elections twice over immunity, you sheltered yourself in your bloc because of immunity, and even now it seems that you believe that new elections will give you the immunity you seek. I ask you to commit in your own voice that you will not seek immunity.”

As prime minister Netanyahu has the right to seek immunity from prosecution, a request that needs to be approved by the Knesset. The request would likely hinge on how Yisrael Beytenu would vote, but analysts believe that many of the party’s MKs would vote with Netanyahu, as a protest against the prosecution’s manhandling of the investigation against him – and, in the past, party leader Avigdor Liberman. Netanyahu has not publicly said whether he would seek immunity or not.

In a statement Tuesday, Liberman said that if a government was not established “within the next 24 hours it will be because the heads of the Likud and Blue and White refused to concede and compromise on their egos, both demanding to be prime minister first. Anything else you hear is a spin and a story. Together they have 65 Knesset seats, they don’t need anyone else to establish a government. The insistence of the Likud on bringing its chareidi-messianist bloc into a government, and the willingness of three former IDF chiefs of staff to establish a government with the IDF-hating United Arab List, which in the last conflict sided with Islamic Jihad, were both unacceptable to Yisrael Beytenu.”

Meanwhile, in the first poll released after Yair Lapid’s announcement Monday that he was giving up on his rotation deal with Gantz, Blue and White grew slightly in strength. A Walla News poll said that if elections were held now, Blue and White would get 35 seats, compared to 33 for the Likud. The growth in strength for the party comes from Labor and the Democratic Camp, both of which are hovering just slightly above the electoral threshold. The right-wing/chareidi bloc remains solid at 55 MKs, while Yisrael Beytenu would get 8 seats, and the United Arab List 13.

The poll also shows that for the first time, as many Israelis believe, Gantz is as qualified as Netanyahu for the office of prime minister. The two are in a statistical heat for popularity, with 38% preferring Gantz and 37% Netanyahu. Gantz has been steadily “growing” on Israelis, with a gradual increase in the number of voters who believe he would make a good prime minister. According to the poll, 16% said neither was fit for the job, and 9% haven’t made up their minds.