Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu joined trilateral talks with Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin last night. The three leaders initially sat down together for more than an hour at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, after which Rivlin left, and Netanyahu and Gantz continued to discuss matters on their own, for yet another hour. No information about the meeting has been made public, and both political rivals instructed their parties’ representatives to cancel all interviews with the media – as to avoid obstructing prospects of forming a national unity government.
Meanwhile, negotiating teams for both the Likud and Blue and White factions held their first meetings today, and Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to return to the President’s Residence tomorrow for follow-up consultations. It is important to note that Prime Minister Netanyahu held separate telephone conversations with the respective leaders of his right-wing ultra-Orthodox partners – during which he reaffirmed his commitment to them – underscoring that he was negotiating on behalf of the entire bloc. That said, the Israeli leader explained during a gathering of his Likud party that a lack of mandates has eroded the potential of forming a solely right-wing government, so therefore, the only remaining option is the creation of a broad unity government. Netanyahu said: “We wanted to form a right-wing government. Unfortunately, this was not possible, we simply didn’t get enough votes to do so. Gantz on his part wanted to form a government from the opposing side, and he also didn’t get enough votes to do so. Therefore, the only government that can be formed under these circumstances is a wide unity government with both of us, and the only way to reach such a government is to sit down and talk.”
Former IDF Chief Benny Gantz has released a statement to the members of his Blue and White faction, reiterating that the Israeli public has voted for change – and that he has no intention of abandoning either the party’s principles or its natural partners by conceding the leadership of the next government.