With Liberman Behind Him, Gantz Turns to Joint List

YERUSHALAYIM -
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Lieberman. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

With Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s endorsement in his pocket, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz directed his negotiators to prepare for talks with the Joint Arab List, according to media reports on Sunday night.

The four leaders of Blue and White met on Sunday and decided that a minority government should be sought with outside support from Arab MKs, on a temporary basis, until a larger coalition could be formed.

Gantz and Liberman were due to meet on Sunday night to work out details of their alliance, following Gantz’s acceptance of Liberman’s conditions, which were mostly about confirming the goal of destroying the religious status quo, which Blue and White had already committed to during the campaign. They included support for the chareidi draft law drawn up while Liberman was defense minister, allowing localities to run buses on Shabbos, liberalization of conversion procedures, and civil marriage.

However, prospects for an agreement with JAL were still seriously in doubt, given the statements made and conditions set down by them in recent days.

The Joint List’s demands for supporting a Gantz-led government from outside (voting with the coalition but taking no ministerial positions) include 64 billion shekels over 10 years for infrastructure in the Arab sector and veto power over diplomatic and security moves, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Even if such obstacles could somehow be overcome, opposition within Blue and White itself to such a scenario persists.

Channel 13 reported a “stormy meeting” on Sunday between Moshe Yaalon, the head of the Telem faction, part of Blue and White, and his two right-leaning, recalcitrant MKs, Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel. Yaalon, who reportedly changed his position and agreed to the JAL scheme, was angry at Hauser and Hendel, who won’t go along.

Blue and White officials told Channel 12 that the two “serve Netanyahu and thwart the Gantz government.”

However, Hauser and Hendel apparently represent more than just their stubborn selves. A survey conducted by Shlomo Filber’s Direct Polls Institute found that at least half of Blue and White supporters are opposed to a minority government alongside the Joint List.

Gantz’s hypothetical path to power depends on the support of the 33 MKs in Blue and White, Labor-Gesher-Meretz, Yisrael Beytenu and the Joint List. Minus Hendel and Hauser, he’s got only 60. And that’s only if the three MKs of Balad, a member Joint List, could be counted in. This seemed unlikely, given that Balad said it would not recommend Gantz for prime minister.

Yet, JAL leader Ahmad Tibi said on Sunday night, “there is no chance that we will negotiate without representation of all four parties,” including Balad.