Unity Deal Calls for New Deputy PM Residence

YERUSHALAYIM -
netanyahu gantz
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz in November. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli media was afire with indignation on Wednesday night over reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were are arguing over the building of a new residence for the deputy prime minister as part of their rotation agreement, while a million Israelis are facing unemployment.

The Likud denied the story, calling it “fake news. The Likud is not asking for another residence for the prime minister.”

Gantz, for his part, said on Wednesday that he would continue living in his home in Rosh HaAyin, while waiting his turn to serve as prime minister.

According to the report, which quotes unnamed sources close to the unity talks, Likud was accusing Blue and White of demanding the residence, while Likud said the idea was Blue and White’s.

Either way, says Channel 12, the provision for such a residence appeared in a draft agreement between the two sides. It would mean that during the first 18 months of the government, while Netanyahu serves as PM, Gantz could reside in it, and Netanyahu could then move into the new deputy’s residence when he steps aside for Gantz to occupy the current prime minister’s address on Balfour Street in Yerushalayim.

The story broke amid reports that negotiations for a unity government had stalled on the issue of annexations in Yehuda and Shomron. Netanyahu committed himself months ago to annexations as soon as the U.S.-Israeli team mapping the region finishes its work and Washington approves the Israeli moves. But Gantz has stuck to his position that nothing of the kind can be done unilaterally.

However, progress was reported on the apportioning of ministerial portfolios. The sides were said to have agreed that Likud will hold the Justice Ministry and Blue and White the Ministry of Public Security, or vice-versa, with the other having a deputy minister, to ensure a policy consensus in both, according to The Jerusalem Post.

And the next Knesset speaker (once a government is formed and Gantz becomes defense minister) will be Likud’s Yariv Levin, according to Channel 12 news.

In all, the mood was pessimistic, though.

“Efforts are being made, but not I’m not sure whether a government will be established,” a source involved in the negotiations told Channel 12 on Wednesday afternoon.