Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Saturday night that an "extreme far-right government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu would bring upon us a disaster."
Gantz, who made his remarks at a Mimouna celebration marking the end of the Passover holiday, has not yet revealed publicly who he will recommend that President Reuven Rivlin task with forming a government, but has said that Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid should be the first to receive the mandate to form a colaition.
He added that a Netanyahu-led coalition would be "unbalanced and would not protect Israel's citizens."
Last week, Gantz said he would recommend Lapid "happily, if I see it has any chance." In an interview with Ynet, Gantz said that he would join the parties that support Lapid's candidacy if the Yesh Atid leader reaches the point where he only needs Kahol Lavan's eight seats to form a coalition.
"I am not ruling out anything that will oust Netanyahu. If 53 people recommend Yair [Lapid], he will automatically get another eight [seats] from me without any problems at all, he does not need to call me – he will receive a phone call from me," Gantz said.
Since the election in March, Gantz and Lapid have met twice with the aim of advancing the formation of a government, most recently on Wednesday. In a joint statement, the two said that they "continued discussions about finding a solution to form a government that will replace Netanyahu" and that they will continue the talks in the coming days. Until now, Gantz had refrained from declaring whether he would support Lapid as a candidate whom the president should task with forming the next government.
On Sunday, Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli, accused Gantz of "once more preparing the ground for stealing the votes" of the anti-Netanyahu electorate. "By warning of an 'extreme, right-wing government without a balance that will protect the citizens,' [Gantz] no longer commits not to sit with Netanyahu. There are 61 seats that voted against Netanyahu, let's just form a government with them, before Gantz makes Bibi king again," she wrote on Twitter.
- Israel election results: Bennett holds inconclusive talks with Lapid, day after Netanyahu parley
- Israel election results: Bennett doesn't commit to naming Netanyahu as PM candidate after meeting
- Israel election results: Lapid in talks with Bennett, but fears a last-minute escape into Netanyahu's arms
Before the election, Gantz declared that he would not sit with Netanyahu and that he would work to oust him. "I inform you that Netanyahu has only one plan - to remain prime minister of a permanent and eternal transition. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, there can be fifth and sixth and seventh elections," he said at a conference over Zoom in February. "The only thing that prevents it - is us as a group, and I as an alternate prime minister. I am Netanyahu's expiration date. We are strong and we will grow, we will be the most influential party and we will make sure that here, after the election, an honest person will head up a government with interests that align with the interests of Israel and its citizens."
On Saturday, Lapid and Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett met. The two said at the end of their meeting, which lasted about two and a half hours, that it was good, and that they would meet again soon. On Friday, Bennett met with Netanyahu.
Lapid's wish is for Bennett to publicly declare that he will recommend Lapid to the president as the candidate who should be tasked with forming the government; the president must dole out this task by no later than this Wednesday. Such a declaration would constitute a "down payment," and in consideration for this, Lapid would agree that Bennett serve first as prime minister in a rotation arrangement with him. It is anticipated that Bennett will not agree to this, and that Yamina's seven members will recommend Bennett and not Lapid.