After Marathon Meeting, Netanyahu, Gantz Say Deal Close

YERUSHALAYIM -
gantz netanyahu unity government
Benny Gantz and Binyuamin Netanyahu on an election poster last month. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Likud and Israel Resilience issued statements Sunday morning that “substantial progress” was made during a face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Resilience leader Benny Gantz on talks toward a unity government. Media reports over the weekend said that the two aimed to sign a coalition agreement early in the week.

Netanyahu and Gantz met for eight hours overnight Motzoei Shabbos and discussed the division of ministries and other government positions. A number of issues remain that need to be resolved. Channel 12 reported that Gantz prefers that the Defense Ministry be given to his party, as opposed to the Foreign Ministry portfolio, which had been offered. If Resilience gets that ministry, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is likely to be named defense minister.

The report added that Aryeh Deri would remain on as interior minister, and Rabbi Yaakov Litzman as health minister. Naftali Bennett would likely be moved to the Finance Ministry, and Rabbi Moshe Gafni would return to chair the Knesset Finance Committee. The Likud has agreed to give Resilience the Justice portfolio.

The Likud would like Yuli Edelstein to return as Knesset Speaker, but Gantz opposes this because of Edelstein’s defiance of the High Court last week, in which he refused the court’s order to convene the Knesset to vote on his replacement.

Yisrael Hayom reported that Gantz is also seeking guarantees that Netanyahu will step down as prime minister after 18 months, as both agreed to in discussions last week.

According to Yisrael Hayom, Gantz is bringing 15 Resilience MKs into the government – and the party will get 12 ministerial positions. Among those are likely to be Yoaz Hendel and Tzvi Hauser, who defied Moshe Yaalon and Yair Lapid in refusing to accept the prospect of a minority government established with the help of the Joint Arab List. The two are officially members of Yaalon’s Telem party, but are reportedly seeking ways to “divorce” from Yaalon and join with Resilience, or even the Likud.