Midnight deadline: Netanyahu’s final efforts to devise a coalition

With the midnight deadline swiftly approaching, the likelihood that Jerusalem will not have a new government is increasing. Last efforts to reach a compromise agreement between Likud Chairman, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairperson Avigdor Lieberman, have yielded no apparent results.

The Likud party is therefore continuing to promote the bill to dissolve the Knesset, for its second and third readings, and hold new elections in order to preempt a possibility in which President Reuven Rivlin assigning’s Netanyahu’s main rivals, Blue and White Co-Chairmen Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, the task of attempting to form a government.

To guarantee that this scenario does not materialize and that the bill to dissolve the Knesset passes, the Likud secretariat approved a proposal, which was orchestrated by Netanyahu, to have former Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s ‘Kulanu’ party merge with the Likud. Under the current political landscape, the move effectively thwarts the center-left bloc’s ability to form a viable coalition.

Nevertheless, Blue and White Chairperson Benny Gantz insisted that his faction will continue to oppose the dissolution of the Knesset. “Our faction will oppose dissolution of the Knesset, if it is voted on, due to the simple reason, among others, that election at this time is a big deception of Israeli politics,” Gantz said.

Despite efforts by the Center-left bloc to prevent, what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle referred to as “unwanted elections,” a special committee to discuss the bill to dissolve the Parliament decided that the elections for Israel’s 22nd Knesset, should they indeed be held, will most-likely take place on the 17th of September, 2019. It is important to note, however, that some motions have been filed against the proposed day, which may lead to a  change in date.

Nevertheless, chairman of the committee preparing the bill to dissolve Israel’s parliament, Likud Knesset Member Miki Zohar, voiced hope that Lieberman will capitulate to Netanyahu’s demands and avoid an unprecedented situation that will force the country into a second round of national elections. According to Zohar: “The election, the election is very very close right now and we do not know if Lieberman will change his mind. If he won’t come to sit with us to a real negotiation that we can compromise in this negotiation, unfortunately, we can see ourselves in an election that we do not need. We still hope that Liberman will come forward to us but if he will stand in his position unfortunately we are going to elections.”

In contrast to circulating media reports, TV7 has managed to unveil that as part of the coalition negotiations, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman has demanded two written assurances from Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. The first assurance, even though secondary in magnitude, pertains to a demand for a clear separation between the religious establishment in Israel and state affairs – which includes the uncompromised legislation of the IDF proposed conscription bill that aims to accommodate the Israeli military’s growing manpower needs. The second demand pertains to Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip. Lieberman is demanding Jerusalem adopt his doctrine in all dealings with the terror infested enclave, according to which “Israel will forcefully remove the Islamist organizations that control the strip, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” after which “Jerusalem will transfer the control of the territory to an international force that will attain both administrative and security-related responsibilities.” Lieberman further demands that “the Gaza Strip will be handled separately from the West bank.”

While senior political sources confirmed to TV7 that these two demands have been presented to Netanyahu, they underlined that the chances of the latter adopting Lieberman’s demands in the time remaining, are most unlikely.