As Gantz's Deadline to Form a Gov't Nears, No Coalition Deal Is in Sight

Sources in Kahol Lavan predict Gantz won't be able to form a minority government with Lieberman supported by the Arab parties by Wednesday at midnight, when his mandate expires

From right: Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Amir Cohen/Reuters

With only two days remaining until Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a government expires, there's no indication that any kind of coalition is in the offing.

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman and kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman said Monday, “If by Wednesday noon we haven’t come to an agreement in principle that can be initialed, then it’s every man for himself.”

At his faction’s meeting, Lieberman said he would not support a government that wasn’t a national unity government, because “a narrow government is a disaster.” While he didn’t categorically reject the possibility of a narrow government with the right or the left, he said, “I don’t intend to speak about anything except unity, don’t waste your time. The question of what’s worse, a narrow government or a third round of election is a good question. I’m allowing myself to maintain the fog of war and not take anything off the table.”

Lieberman added that his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday had been businesslike. “We didn’t waste time on old grudges or battles, but [we talked about] practical things, how we could make progress toward unity.”

Also on Monday, Gantz, speaking from the Knesset podium, told the lawmakers from the Joint List alliance of four Arab parties to be careful how they spoke about the Israel Defense Forces.

“I accept with respect the criticism you have of the actions of the State of Israel against the Palestinian public or in general,” he said. “Let me make a friendly suggestion: Don’t say the things you’re saying about the IDF because they aren’t correct.”

During his speech at the Knesset, Gantz added, “Whenever an improper incident occurs, we investigate, check, study and learn lessons. Don’t be hypocrites; remember that our enemies are operating in a civilian environment, placing it at risk, and they are the ones who in the end unfortunately cause casualties among noncombatants.

"As someone who has sat for hours in operation rooms and as someone who has spent thousands of hours approving targets or anything else, I admit that we aren’t free of mistakes, but the purity of our intent is totally clear. And when you criticize in a way that is groundless but based on a political perception, you yourselves are not telling the truth,” the Kahol Lavan leader said. 

Earlier Monday, at a faction meeting, Gantz also took Netanyahu to task for his portrayal of Joint List MKs as unworthy partners who support terror. “Your tongue-lashings against them over the past two days must stop. You, Netanyahu, must retract your words immediately.” He added that the prime minister’s campaign against the establishment of a minority government with the support of the 13 Joint List MKs, 12 of whom are Arabs, was “an ugly and dangerous performance of hypocrisy, lies and incitement.”

At the Knesset, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi called on all the MKs, including Gantz, “to condemn the killing of the Asoarka family, to condemn it and apologize, not [just] express regret,” referring to the eight family members who were killed when their house was bombed mistakenly last Thursday.

“A few days ago I heard in one of the studios one of your former colleagues, who isn’t from Likud. He said ‘We don’t have to apologize.’ Do you know how it aggravates a person like me when Jewish leaders don’t apologize to Arabs even when a Palestinian family is buried and erased from the Gaza Population Registry?,” Tibi said. 

Speaking from his seat, Gantz replied: “We are saddened by the fact that noncombatants are hurt, but the IDF are investigating how this mishap happened, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad are investigating how they didn’t hurt any civilians.”

Meanwhile, Likud said in a statement that Netanyahu had met in the afternoon with MK Gideon Sa’ar to discuss efforts to form a unity government and prevent the formation of a minority government.

At a meeting in Jerusalem of members of the right-wing bloc, Netanyahu reiterated that a minority government supported by the Joint List would be “a real danger to the State of Israel.” He rejected the argument that such a government would be a short term, transitional one, saying, “Such a government mustn’t exist for even one day.”

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh responded to this with a video on Twitter in which he said, “We won’t let [Netanyahu] fan the flames of hatred. This time we’ll pull him off the balcony before it’s too late. There will be no civil war here with Benjamin Netanyahu’s name on it.” He also called on Jews and Arabs to work together against Netanyahu “to show him that his time is up, and that his incitement will not be tolerated. The time has come for courage. Let’s show him how strong we are together.”

Shas chairman Arye Dery said at the meeting of the right-wing parties that his party would not join a narrow government supported by the Joint List “in any stage, condition or situation. The salvation they’re waiting for won’t come from Shas.”

Regarding the understandings that Yisrael Beiteinu and Kahol Lavan had reportedly reached on religion and state, Dery said, “This document, if it will be fulfilled, would be a total annihilation of the status quo. A new country.”

Sources in Kahol Lavan assess Gantz won't be able to form a minority government with Lieberman supported by the Joint List by Wednesday at midnight, when his mandate expires. After a meeting of the four Kahol Lavan leaders, a party source said, “If Lieberman doesn’t vote for a minority government, it won’t be possible to form one. Now it looks like he won't back it, but we’ll try until the very last minute.”