Gantz Party Open to Unity Government With Netanyahu as First PM to Counter Virus

The option of letting Netanyahu start off in a rotation agreement for the premiership was previously ruled out on grounds that a politician facing indictments is not a viable candidate for the top job

Likud and Kahol Lavan negotiations teams at their meeting with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Knesset, December 1, 2019.
Emil Salman

Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party said Saturday it does not rule out a broad unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in which Netanyahu would be first in the premiership rotation.

The move comes as party leaders are considering a broad, temporary emergency government to counter the coronavirus outbreak.

A senior official from Kahol Lavan told Haaretz: "The scenario whereby we join a unity government where Netanyahu starts [as prime minister], is on the table. We will see what happens with the negotiations."

The party has rejected this option in the past on principle that Netanyahu should not serve as premier because of his indictment in corruption cases.

As a condition to joining Likud in a short-term emergency government, Kahol Lavan said there should be a balance of representation between the right-wing and center-left blocs, or alternatively, that the coalition should be comprised solely of Likud and Kahol Lavan. However, it added that there have been no official contacts between parties on the matter. 

Netanyahu reiterated his call for an emergency government in a televised press conference Saturday, calling on Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor-Gesher-Meretz to join him. He left out the third-largest party in the Knesset, the Arab-majority Joint List.

Such an emergency government would share authority and responsibility, Netanyahu said, adding that all partecipants would have their say.

Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu said he supports a unity emergency government comprised solely of Likud and Kahol Lavan, "to deal with the coronavirus crisis only."

On Thursday, Gantz said he is willing to form and emergency government if it includes "all parts of the house," in a possible reference to the inclusion of Arab leaders from the Joint List.

The statement was met with backlash among Knesset lawmakers and his party later clarified that "[Joint List Chairman] Ayman Odeh will not be a minister."