Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu will undertake final effort this week ‘to try and bridge the gaps in negotiations to establish a national unity government’ with his centrist political rival Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz. In a recorded Rosh HaShana New Year’s greeting posted on Netanyahu’s Facebook page, he explained his decision to concede to the proposition of joining forces, in the wake of the September 17th election. Both the unprecedented second election and the previous April 9th round created a political deadlock, which leave the incumbent Prime Minister unable to form a required simple-majority coalition of 61 members of parliament.
After saying “Happy New Year dear citizens” and wishing the Jewish community “ A year of prosperity, of security, a year of peace, at least a domestic peace,” Netanyahu elaborated “And for the sake of domestic peace, President Reuven Rivlin proposed something very wise. He said something simple. ‘Because neither you Prime Minister Netanyahu, nor you Knesset Member Benny Gantz, are able to establish a government by yourselves, form a united coalition, a broad unity government.”
Netanyahu claimed that after three separate set of talks between Likud and Blue and White delegations, Gantz’s new party refused to accept either of the two principles proposed by President Reuven Rivlin. “First, a rotation agreement for the position of Prime Minister. Me first, and then Benny Gantz,” said the Premier. The second principle, he said, was “an equal government, i.e. it doesn’t matter how many Knesset Members we (Likud) will bring with us from the right(-wing bloc), all the 55, and it doesn’t matter how many Gantz will bring from the Left(-wing bloc), the number of ministers will be equal, which means that no one will have an advantage.” He then stressed that after deliberating, “I conceded and said that we (Likud) are willing to accept (a unity government).”
Netanyahu then pointed to the Blue and White’s failure to acquiesce to President Rivlin’s principles as responsible for leading to an unnecessary deadlock, that could ultimately force Israel to hold an historic, third round of elections in less than one year. Netanyahu explained that he has reached out to Gantz in a final push to achieve an agreement. To that end, the two negotiating teams are slated to meet the morning of October 2, and the two party heads will hold direct talks later the same evening.
One of the most critical hurdles pertains to the matter of which candidate would first serve in a possible rotation government. Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded he hold the office for the first two out of the premiership’s four-year term. Even though the Blue and White party has reaffirmed its commitment to form “a broad, liberal, unity government,” Netanyahu’s looming indictment on corruption allegations makes it unlikely that his political opponent, Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, will accept that bid. The Blue and White Chairman remains adamant that he will abide his party’s pre-election promise not to serve in a government under a Prime Minister facing criminal charges.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is now due to hold a series of pre-trials hearing this week and next over his intention to indict Netanyahu, on fraud and bribery charges in three separate cases of corruption. Netanyahu strongly maintains his innocence, and argues that he is a victim of ‘a political witch-hunt.’ He and his legal counsel will be granted the opportunity to offer defense against the prosecution, that could eventually force him to relinquish the premiership.