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With Three Days Left to Deadline, Netanyahu Rival Gantz Scrambles to Form Gov't

Dramatic political week kicks off as Kahol Lavan leader nears deadline to form coalition ■ Netanyahu: Arab party MKs want to destroy Israel ■ Gantz, Lieberman: Progress made in coalition talks

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Avigdor Lieberman and Benny Gantz shake hands on November 15, 2019.
Avigdor Lieberman and Benny Gantz shake hands on November 15, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

With three days left until his mandate to form a government expires, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz scrambles between meetings with party heads on Sunday in an attempt to secure the necessary seats for a coalition, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party braces for the possible indictment of its chairman.

On Saturday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against the possibility that Gantz will establish a minority government backed from the outside by Arab lawmakers. "We are facing an emergency that is unprecedented in the history of the State of Israel," he said.

<< Is Gantz really about to become prime minister? Panicking Bibi thinks he might | Analysis

Likud held an "emergency rally" on Sunday in Tel Aviv to protest "a minority government supported by the Arab parties." During the rally, Netanyahu said Arab Joint List lawmakers seek to destroy Israel, adding that if a Gantz-led minority government is formed, "they will celebrate in Tehran, in Ramallah, and in Gaza."

After representatives of Kahol Lavan and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu met on Sunday, the two parties released a joint statement saying "significant progress" had been made.

Kahol Lavan's negotiation team also met representatives from Labor-Gesher on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Likud-led right-wing bloc is also meeting Sunday ahead of a possible sit-down between Netanyahu and Lieberman later in the day.

Latest updates:

8:52 P.M. Joint List leader: Netanyahu is a bitter criminal who does not know how to lose

"There will be no 'Benjamin Intersection' or 'Netanyahu High School.' He signed away his legacy tonight as a bitter criminal who does not know how to lose," Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh said regarding Netanyahu's remarks on his party. The prime minister only knows "how to heart and incite against those he is supposed to serve."

He added, "All of us, Arabs and our Jewish peers, will breathe a sigh of relief on the day that he will leave, and we will continue to fight for peace, equality democracy and social justice."

8:40 P.M. Joint List MKs: Netanyahu's speech incitement against their lives

Joint List members responded to Netanyahu's attacks on the party during his "emergency rally." MK Ofer Cassif, the lone Jewish member of the party, wrote "When Netanyahu says cooperating with us is 'a terror attack' that demands emergency measures, what does he mean?" Netanyahu determined that "my blood and the blood of my peers" is fair game. His remarks "send his followers to act. Whoever does not rise now against incitement, will bear responsibility for the disaster that will befall us all."

MK Aida Touma-Sliman said Netanyahu is declaring her and her peers to be fair targets, and has crosed all lines. "The consequences of this incitement are going to be severe. Bibi, you've lost it."

8:33 P.M. Kahol Lavan: 'Netanyahu only cares about Netanyahu'

In a statement from Kahol Lavan in response to Netanyahu's "emergency rally," the party said "The residents of the south did not get an 'emergency rally,' nor did the sick who are being thrown into the hallways of hospitals, nor the elderly nor the disabled. As usual, Netanyahu only cares about Netanyahu."

8:26 P.M. Kahol Lavan's Lapid responds: Netanyahu needs to agree to unity government terms,

Kahol Lavan no. 2 Yair Lapid responded to Netanyahu's attack on his party and its negotiations with the Joint List. "If Netanyahu is so hysterical about the idea of a minority government, he should come and establish a unity government, that will part ways with the ultra-Orthodox-messianic bloc, that will agree to be second in a rotation [of prime ministers], and there will be a unity government within 48 hours," he said. "The problem is that Netanyahu decided, at the counsel of his lawyers, to go to elections."

8:25 P.M. Joint List's Hadash: Arab party expects internal battle before minority government decision made

Members of the predominantly Arab Hadash party, which is part of the Joint List Knesset , said a major battle is expected in the party before a decision is made on whether to support a minority government headed by Gantz.

One option being considered within the Joint List is that if Gantz only needs the support of four of the Joint List's 13 Knesset members, then its Ta'al and United Arab List factions, which together have five Knesset seats, would vote in favor of a Gantz-led government. The other eight votes from the other two factions in the Joint List, Hadash and Balad, would abstain.

8:05 P.M. Netanyahu at 'emergency rally': Arab Joint List lawmakers want to destroy Israel, Tehran will celebrate Gantz minority gov't

At Likud's "emergency rally," Netanyahu says Arab Joint List lawmakers seek to destroy Israel, adding that if a Gantz-led minority government is formed, "they will celebrate in Tehran, in Ramallah, and in Gaza."

To depend on the Joint List "is a danger to the State of Israel," he said, adding that Joint List MKs call Israeli soldiers murderers. Over the past week, when Israel was bombarded with Gaza rockets, Joint List MKs "support terror groups that want to wipe out the country." Negotiating with the party, Netanyahu said, is a "slap in the face" to Israeli civilians and soldiers and a severe affront to Israeli democracy itself.

7:43 P.M. Kahol Lavan and Labor-Gesher made progress, discussed future government

A meeting between Kahol Lavan and Labor-Gesher has concluded, a joint statement said, adding that the parties made progress toward an agreement on the fundamentals of a future government.

6:51 P.M. Likud and Yisrael Beitenu say Lieberman-Netanyahu meeting was 'practical, good'

A joint statement from Netanyahu and Lieberman's parties say the two have finished an hour-long meeting that included a "practical and good" discussion centering on forming a unity government.

6:00 P.M. Half of Joint List expected to back minority government headed by Gantz

Two of the parties comprising the Joint List alliance of Arab parties – the United Arab List and Ta'al – are leaning toward supporting a minority government led by Benny Gantz and including Yisrael Beitenu. The largest party in the Joint List alliance, Hadash, is expected to see disagreement over the prospect of supporting such a government. The fourth, Balad, has said it will not support a government that includes Avigdor Lieberman, but sources in the Joint List believe Balad will ultimately not torpedo such a move.

4:15 P.M. Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beitenu say 'significant progress' made in coalition talks

Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beitenu have released a joint statement saying that their talks have resulted in "significant progress," particularly on the issue of the relationship between religion and state. The parties' representatives will meet again this evening and tomorrow, according to the statement.

2:21 P.M. Joint List officials say negotiations on minority gov't haven't started

Factions within Kahol Lavan are in disagreement over the make-up of a minority government, with some still preferring unity with Likud, Joint List officials told Haaretz on Sunday.

Another disputed issue in Gantz's party, the officials said, is whether Lieberman would support or abstain from a vote on a minority government supported by the Joint List. Once these two matters are settled, the alliance would be open to hearing a proposal, they said.

3:41 P.M. Despite Netanyahu's request, right-wing bloc leaders won't attend 'emergency' conference

The leaders of Israel's right-wing bloc of parties will not attend the Likud party's "emergency" conference on Sunday evening against the possibility of a minority government being formed by Benny Gantz with the backing of the Arab-majority Joint List.

An official from one of the parties said "We don't want to take part in Netanyahu's circus. He can't drag us to en event any time he pleases."

According to another officials, some of the party representatives couldn't attend because of "technical" reasons.

3:24 P.M. Joint List lawmaker asks attorney general to prevent Likud's 'emergency' conference against minority gov't

Mtanges Shehadah, the chairman of the Balad party, filed on Sunday a request with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit that he prevent Likud's "conference of incitement against Arab citizens and parties."

Shehadah's request mentioned a video posted by Netanyahu earlier on Sunday, in which he said: "Today we're holding an emergency conference against a minority government backed by supporters of terrorism."

This, Shehadah said, raises the concern that the convention will become a demonstration of incitement to racism against an entire population, and even violence against members of the Joint List, who according to Netanyahu's message, support terrorism and thus their life is forfeit."

2:14 P.M. Netanyahu indictment likely early next week after legal conference cancelled

Ahead of the expected indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases, Israel's State Prosecutor postponed a legal conference on Sunday due to "scheduling issues."

The State Prosecutor's Office spokesman left the country and is set to return in a week, raising speculation that the indictment will be filed early next week.

9:44 A.M. Half of Israel's Arabs support minority gov't headed by Gantz, poll says

Forty-nine percent of a pool of Israeli Arab respondents backed a minority government headed by Gantz, and supported by the Joint List, an alliance of four Israeli Arab parties, a poll Published on Sunday by Army Radio shows.

According to the survey conducted by Stat-Net research institute, 33 percent of respondents said they oppose such a government, while 17.7 percent remain undecided.

When asked whether they would support a Gantz-led government if Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman joins it, only 37.2 percent of those polled replied in the affirmative.

Furthermore, 91 percent said they would vote as they did in the September 17 election if a third election is called, while nine percent said they would give their ballot to another party.

9:38 A.M. Joint List lawmaker doesn't rule out negotiations with Gantz

Speaking to Army Radio, Joint List lawmaker Mansour Abbas said that his party "doesn't rule out negotiations with Kahol Lavan and will consider ant proposal presented to us."

Mansour added that "our contacts with Kahol Lavan began before the [September 17] election, and were implemented when we recommended Gantz [to President Reuven Rivlin] to form a government.

"But lately, because of the operation in Gaza, we had no contacts," the lawmaker added in reference to the recent two-day Gaza flare-up that came after Israel assassinated top Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata.

Mansour added that the Joint List seeks not to be part a future governing coalition at this point in time.

9:21 A.M. Likud minister: Minority gov't would cause 'grave damage to democracy'

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that forming a minority government will cause the "gravest damage to democracy," adding that his party wouldn't have agreed to such a government that doesn’t have a majority on the Knesset.

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