Netanyahu, Gantz to Resume Unity Talks After Disagreements

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau.
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau. Credit: Reuters
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz are expected to resume negotiations Friday over the formation of a unity government, following a disagreement over the appointment of judges that left talks stranded in a standstill.

On Wednesday, Gantz said unity government negotiations were halted because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands to interfere with the work of the Judicial Appointments Committee, which is the body that appoints judges to Israeli courts.

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“Netanyahu and his people came with a demand to harm the proper working of the Judicial Appointments Committee, in opposition to what had already been agreed,” Gantz wrote on his official Facebook page on Wednesday.

Likud is demanding to add a provision to the unity agreement that the committee will operate in coordination with a Likud minister representing the party in the panel.

Kahol Lavan is opposing the demand, while insisting that the committee continues to operate as it always has, without the need to coordinate its moves with any minister who is part of the panel.

The justice minister, who chairs the committee, has the power to prevent it from convening if an agreement is not reached about the judges he seeks to appoint.   

Likud officials are concerned it would be perceived by the right-wing camp that they are surrendering to Kahol Lavan’s demands regarding the judicial system and are looking for ways to please their electorate.

Kahol Lavan has repeatedly threatened over the holiday that if an agreement is not signed, Gantz, who serves as Knesset speaker, will advance the bill preventing a prime minister from serving under indictment.

On Wednesday, Kahol Lavan and Likud officials exchanged accusations, with Likud issuing a statement saying: “From the beginning, it was agreed that the unity government would be based on two clear principles: Joint decision-making on every subject, and the advancement of annexation. Unfortunately, at the very last moment, it was Kahol Lavan has broken these agreements, which are the necessary basis for every equal government.”

However, later on Wednesday, Netanyahu called Gantz to wish him a happy Passover, and the two agreed to resume negotiations. Netanyahu still seeks to reach an agreement with Gantz and form a government after the Passover holiday.

The mandate to form a government Gnatz received from President Reuven Rivlin after winning the majority of recommendations from Knesset lawmakers expires on Monday evening, and he is expected to ask for an extension if he doesn’t reach an agreement with Netanyahu by then. However, Rivlin is unlikely to grant Gantz’s request.

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