Likud, Kahol Lavan Negotiation Teams Meet in 'Last Ditch Effort' to Form Gov't

Kahol Lavan rejects outline proposed by Knesset speaker in which Netanyahu would lead the government for several months and then step down

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein in Jerusalem on January 24, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein met with the negations teams of the two major political parties Kahol Lavan and Likud Wednesday, in a last effort to form a government and prevent a third election.

Edelstein said the meetings "were conducted in a positive and good atmosphere." Both teams approved the Knesset Speaker's proposal for a joint meeting in his presence, which will be held Sunday at the Knesset.

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In the meeting, the Knesset speaker offered the two parties an outline in which Netanyahu would lead the government for a few months and then step down and allow Gantz to assume the post, which Kahol Lavan rejected.

Senior Kahol Lavan member Moshe Ya'alon said following the meeting that the party made it clear to Edelstein it would not sit in a government headed by Netanyahu as long as he's not acquitted of the charges against him. "We will not stray from our values and our committment to the electorate."

In the coming days, Edelstien will meet with additional party leaders.

Earlier Wednesday, Edelstein said "Israel is in the midst of a governmental emergency that could cause an economic and social collapse; this is the moment of truth in Israeli politics. It's time to choose between leadership and cowardice. It’s time to say enough is enough."

Kahol Lavan said they “welcome the Knesset speaker’s initiative,” adding that the party’s negotiation team will “make all efforts to prevent a third election.” Likud echoed a similar response, writing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed the party's negotiation team to "accede to Edelstein's initiative immediately."

On Wednesday of last week, Kahol Lavan Benny Gantz leader announced that he was unable to form a government, setting the stage for a 21-day period, ending December 11, during which any Knesset member with the backing of at least 61 out of parliament's 120 lawmakers would be entitled to try to do so. If that effort fails, the law requires that an unprecedented third Knesset election in less than a year be held within 90 days.

After the results of the election last April and another election in September yielded inconclusive results, neither Netanyahu nor Benny Gantz was able to form a government.

Following the September 17 election, President Reuven Rivlin first tapped Netanyahu to form a government. When he failed, the task went to Gantz to cobble together a coalition. In announcing that he was also unsuccessful, the Kahol Lavan leader told the Rivlin that he is committed to do everything in his power to help form a governing coalition in the 21-day period left before a new election are required by law.

The failure of efforts by Likud and Kahol Lavan, which together would command a Knesset majority, prompted the parties to blame one another. Kahol Lavan has attributed the deadlock to Netanyahu's failure to negotiate without the other right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties from which he received a commitment to negotiate as a block.

“In the past 28 days, no stone was left unturned while we tried to form a government that would bring Israel a leadership of dignity, morals and values, a leadership that has been forgotten,” Gantz said after announcing his failure to form a government.

According to the Likud sources, both parties’ negotiation teams were close to agreeing that Netanyahu would serve first in a rotating premiership election agreement and that he would take a leave of absence within six months to a year if an indictment was filed against him in three criminal investigations.

Last Thursday, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced he was indicting Netanyahu in the three cases, including bribery in what has been dubbed Case 4000.

On Tuesday of last week, before Gantz's mandate expired, he and Netanyahu met to address the main disagreements between them. At the end of the meeting, Gantz said he remained firm about two of his party’s demands: a breakup of the right-wing coalition bloc and the establishment of a government headed by Kahol Lavan.

With eight seats in the current Knesset, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, holds the balance of power between the two major parties.