According to a report in Yisrael Hayom on Friday, quoting talks with “senior politicians,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz have been holding substantive negotiations during the past days, in order to reach a compromise that would hold the unity government together and avert elections in the coming months.
According to the officials quoted in the report, shortly after Gantz decided to establish a governmental committee of inquiry into the submarines affair, Gantz notified Netanyahu that he had no reason to worry about the committee’s findings.
In a message he sent to the Likud Party, Gantz stressed that his intent in establishing the committee of inquiry was to “placate his base,” and said he had no doubt that the committee could not affect the prime minister or his stature. Gantz said he thought that Netanyahu would not be asked to testify before the committee, and stressed that the committee’s mandate was a very limited, even “toothless,” one.
Yisrael Hayom reported that the team facilitating dialogue between the two camps includes Gantz’s chief of staff Hod Betzer and Netanyahu associates Asher Hayon and Natan Eshel.
Officials also said that in the past few days, the two sides have been sending messages to each other about the state budget and other issues. The backdoor communication also reportedly included a demand by Netanyahu that Gantz remove Justice Minister Avi Nissenkoren from his role and forgo the rotation, which is planned to take place in November 2021. Gantz rejected both demands outright.
However, the “dialogue team” is working on a compromise on the budget issue that would allow the Knesset to push the Dc. 23 deadline to pass the 2020 national budget back by three months. This could comprise a capitulation on Gantz’s part, as it would allow Netanyahu another chance to pack it in and call an election, thus avoiding the rotation. Both sides are reportedly looking into ways of minimizing the damage and blunt expected criticism of Gantz if he decides to take that course of action.
Gantz is demanding a solid date for the passage of the 2021 budget as a condition for approving the 2020 budget, but Netanyahu has thus far rejected all proposals presented to him.
Meanwhile, Blue and White said Thursday that all reports about a compromise on the budget issue were “total, baseless lies” invented by “people with vested interests.”
“No compromise on the budget has been cooked up,” Blue and White said.
Responding to the reports about the committee of inquiry into the submarines affair, Blue and White said, “Another bunch of ridiculous stories. This is a professional, independent committee headed by a judge that will thoroughly investigate the Defense Ministry’s acquisition processes.”