Gantz's Reps Meet Arab Alliance to Discuss Forming Government

Gantz's efforts to oust Netanyahu take blow after member of Labor-led slate disavows support for cooperation with Arab party

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Joint List lawmakers at the Knesset on March 11, 2020.
Joint List lawmakers at the Knesset on March 11, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Representatives from Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party met  Wednesday with representatives of the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties in an attempt to form a minority government, which the List would not join, but support from the outside.

Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi said after the meeting that the sides discussed "upcoming parliamentary issues" as well as the issue of backing Gantz for prime minister." According to Tibi, the sides are slated to meet again.

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Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh declared on Tuesday that the list will act "as one party." All factions of the Joint List attended Wednesday's meeting, including Balad leader Mtanes Shehadeh. Balad Members told Haaretz on Tuesday that should Gantz agree to their demands, they would recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that the Kahol Lavan leader receive the mandate to form a government.

The demands include refraining from unilateral steps such as annexing settlements or altering the status quo on the Temple Mount. Balad also seeks a repeal of the so-called Kaminitz Law, which increased the penalties for illegal construction.

Also Wednesday, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz met with Gantz in the wake of a stunning reversal by Peretz's political partner. Gesher party head Orli Levi-Abekasis, who ran in a slate with Labor and left-wing party Meretz, announced Tuesday that she won’t support any government reliant on the Joint List. After the meeting, Peretz said he was still committed to removing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office.

'Preventing a fourth election'

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz delivers a statement in the central Israeli city of Ramat Gan, March 7, 2020.Credit: AFP

On Monday, Gantz reiterated to Joint List leaders his intention to form a government that will serve all of Israel's citizens, both Jews and Arabs. Speaking with Odeh, senior lawmaker Ahmad Tibi and MK Mansour Abbas, Gantz also repeated intentions to "prevent a fourth election."

After Monday's meeting, Odeh tweeted: “We stick to our goal of replacing Netanyahu's legacy, and it starts by respecting the united voice of the Arab public and our Jewish partners.”

Earlier Monday, Gantz met with Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman, praising the session as the first productive round of talks since Israel's election one week ago. 

Gantz said the two spoke about their respective parties' guiding principles, adding that "we can cooperate on them in order to build a government, lift Israel out of the mud it's stuck in, and avoid a fourth round of elections." The details of the meeting, he said, will be released later.

It remains unclear whether Lieberman will simply accept a government that has the outside support of the Joint List or if he will seek to form a unity government once Netanyahu has been removed. 

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