image Photo: Elad Malka

No Progress in Israeli Coalition Talks

Following an invitation from Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz, a closed-door meeting was held with Prime Minister and Likud Head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s office at the IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv early yesterday evening. After the conclusion, Blue and White officials said “The only progress in negotiations is actually the decision to continue to meet and talk.”

According to a joint message to TV7 from Blue and White and Likud, the two leaders “discussed the structure of political options available.”  Another meeting between the two leaders is anticipated.

It was also agreed that the two sides’ respective negotiating teams would continue to communicate, following their first session yesterday afternoon at the Kfar Maccabiah Convention Center since Blue and White Chairman, LTG (Res.) MK Gantz received the mandate to establish a government from President Reuven Rivlin on October 23. Dr. Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Shlomo headed the Blue and White delegation, while Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Adv. Michael Rabello attended on behalf of Likud. The talks were reportedly “held in good spirits,” according to a statement to TV7 from the Blue and White. The faction’s team “sought to coordinate follow-up meetings in the coming days to discuss the possibility of establishing the government as well as the basic principles.”

Blue and White Spokesperson Melody Sucharewicz told TV7 that the team also attempted to convey the “understanding that the mandate is currently held by Blue and White Chairman, LTG (Res.) MK Benny Gantz, thereby making him the appointed Prime Minister.” The Likud representatives rejected that premise, and “continued to insist throughout the meeting that they represent the 55-member ‘immunity bloc’ and that they are not prepared to compromise on that issue.”

Likud Minister Levin reportedly reaffirmed his party’s centrality as part of a rightwing bloc, perhaps as a cautionary move against any attempts to persuade breakaway elements from joining the  ‘“broad, liberal unity government’ envisioned by Gantz. He is also believed to have accused Blue and White of rejecting what he referred to as “the President’s plan,” that called for a rotational premiership first held by Netanyahu, followed by Gantz when and if Netanyahu would need to take an extended leave to deal with possible prosecution over three separate corruption cases, pending indictment.

Israeli Channel 13 has now aired two separate leaked recordings of conversations that are at the center of Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is allegedly heard pursuing an illegal quid pro quo arrangement with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Prosecutors charged that the Premier sought improved media coverage in exchange for his efforts to weaken and limit circulation of Yedioth’s “Israel Hayom” rival, including the proposed passing of legislation. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to decide whether to indict Netanyahu by the end of November on fraud and breach of trust charges in Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, with the additional allegation of bribery with regard to the latter.

The Prime Minister has steadfastly maintained innocence of any wrongdoing and has steadfastly maintained that Mandelblit buckled to pressure from the media and the Likud leader’s leftwing rivals. Netanyahu refers to the allegations as “an unprecedented witch hunt” and politically-orchestrated persecution aimed at ousting him from the premiership.

In other political developments yesterday, TV7 was given a statement from the Spokespersons from Blue and White and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party following the first meeting of the respective negotiating teams at Kfar Maccabiah.   The same Blue and White delegation remained in place, while Yisrael Beiteinu was represented by Chairman Oded Forer, MK Alex Kushnir, the party’s Executive Director Ina Zilbergratz, Roman Gravitz and Adv. Amir Schneider. The talks were said to have been “held in good and positive spirits and with the objective, on both sides, of advancing a coalition agreement. In the meeting, representatives from Yisrael Beiteinu presented their demands on different issues, and the meeting was primarily focused on the foundations and principles of the future government.”

This morning former IDF Chief of Staff Gantz and his Blue and White Co-Chair Yair Lapid met with U.S. Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner at the US Embassy in Jerusalem. It marked the first time Kushner met with either. Later in the day, Gantz held a closed-door meeting with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, MK Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset; where the Blue and White Chairman will hold talks later this evening with Labor-Gesher party heads, MK Amir Peretz and MK Orly Levi-Abekasis. Their respective negotiating teams held talks at Kfar Maccabiah this morning.

The Blue and White also held a faction meeting in the Negev Hall at the Knesset today. Benny Gantz opened the session with a statement, followed by other leaders including MK Yair Lapid, MK LTG (Res.) Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon and MK LTG (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi.

Tomorrow’s negotiations begin with morning meetings with the Democratic Union negotiating team, followed by talks between their respective leaders Benny Gantz and MK Nitzan Horowitz.

By Erin Viner