Likud MK: We’re Already Talking With Opposition MKs on Joining Gov’t

Likud Party election ballots are seen on the floor following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to supporters at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, early Tuesday. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

With the votes nearly all counted, the next stage in the elections for the 23rd Knesset – formation of a government – is already under way, said Likud whip MK Miki Zohar. Speaking to 103FM Radio Tuesday, Zohar said that, working on the assumption that the final vote tally will have the right-wing/chareidi bloc coming in with 59 or 60 seats, negotiations are already under way with MKs and parties that would join with the Likud.

There was still a chance that the Likud could eke out one or two more mandates; some 350,000 votes belonging mostly to serving IDF soldiers will only be counted Tuesday night, and soldiers’ votes have traditionally skewed right. “If we get one more mandate we will certainly be able to establish a right-wing, national government” without outside assistance, and even 60 seats would be enough to persuade MKs from other parties to join a government led by Binyamin Netanyahu.

“Any MK who joins the coalition now will be writing themselves a ticket to the future. They will be seen as heroes who helped resolve the problem we have been facing for a year, bringing a stable government to Israel, and the Likud will not forget that,” he said.

If the right ends up with only 59 seats, that would leave open the possibility that Benny Gantz could form a minority government with the United Arab List and Yisrael Beytenu. That’s unlikely, said Zohar, because “Avigdor Liberman said he would not sit with the Arabs, but on the other hand he says a lot of things.”

The United Arab List’s Ayman Odeh said Tuesday that he was “very disappointed” with Gantz’s performance, adding that “we don’t want to have anything to do with Blue and White.”

Speaking to Yediot Acharonot Tuesday, Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz said he expected Netanyahu to be able to form a government. “Anyone who tries to boycott Netanyahu is boycotting Israeli democracy, and anyone who puts us in a situation where we are going to have fourth elections will be badly hurt in those elections.”

Explaining Netanyahu’s achievement of at least 35 Knesset seats and perhaps more, Steinitz said that “Netanyahu is an outstanding leader, not only in local terms but internationally. The public understood this and responded to it, despite the attempts by the media to downplay the achievements of the past decade. These achievements – economic, military, and diplomatic – showed the public that Netanyahu is a world-class leader, and that he is the victim of a massive delegitimization campaign.”