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Israeli Unity Talks Ongoing

Israeli Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival, Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz held their second meeting at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem this evening, where they updated President Reuven Rivlin about the progress made in negotiations between their respective delegations.

According to domestic media reports, the talks have focused on several issues – including various rotating premierships, a division of ministerial portfolios, and several matters pertaining to religion and state such as public transportation on the Sabbath and civil marriage. Another critical issue is the passage of a military draft bill into law; disagreement on which was one of the main reasons for the dissolution of the previous-Netanyahu government prior to the April 9th elections, earlier this year.

Law requires President Rivlin to appoint a candidate by next Wednesday, who in turn will attempt to form a government. The Israeli Head of State has reportedly set two guiding principles for the Netanyahu-Gantz negotiations – the first of which demands that the government be shared and equal. As such, Rivlin has proposed that ministerial portfolios be divided evenly between the Likud and Blue and White, excluding smaller factions from a preliminary arrangement. The second principle mandates that neither side boycott members of the other party. Accordingly, Gantz must agree to sit in a government under Benjamin Netanyahu, and Netanyahu must accept a rotating-premiership with Benny Gantz. The no-boycott clause is also applicable to the integration of the ultra-Orthodox factions as part of a broad coalition, despite Blue and White’s pre-election pledge to establish a secular unity government.

It is important to note that Rivlin has warned both Netanyahu and Gantz that he will not allow either side to deliberately delay coalition-building negotiations.  In fact, if the President perceives the unity efforts have reached a dead end, he will delegate the mandate of forming a government to one of the two candidates, even ahead of the 2nd of October legal deadline.