Gantz Says No Progress Achieved in Talks on Unity Government With Netanyahu's Likud

Kahol Lavan leader says that Netanyahu's insistence to be first in a rotation deal for the premiership and refusal to dismantle the right-wing bloc are hampering negotiations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz attend a memorial ceremony for late Israeli president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on September 19, 2019.
AFP

The Likud is not prepared to have a serious discussion on the basic guidelines of a unity government, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz told a meeting of his party on Monday, following talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. 

Gantz also met on Monday with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who described the meeting as a “good one” that “focused on security issues, Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Iran.” Kahol Lavan added that the meeting with Lieberman also addressed the budget, possible political scenarios and a range of other issues.

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Following the meeting with Netanyahu, Gantz said they discussed security and the budget deficit, but also the key issues of immunity for the prime minister and the possibility of performing public service while under indictment, Gantz said. 

He added that he would continue to work toward forging a unity government and accused the Likud of insisting on negotiating on behalf of the entire right-wing bloc, which the Kahol Lavan leader dubbed an “immunity bloc.”

Yair Lapid, the No. 2 on the Kahol Lavan roster, said at the party meeting that a government can’t be created in the space of 48 hours, and that all Netanyahu had to agree to was to be second in the rotation – i.e., to agree that Gantz serve as prime minister first, then Netanyahu. But what Netanyahu wants is a third election, Lapid said.

“That’s what his lawyers suggested to him, that’s what he needs because of the indictments,” Lapid said. “Netanyahu didn’t try to build a government. I know what negotiations to build a government look like. I have seen Netanyahu, I was with him in the room when he really wanted to establish a government. He knew how it’s done. [This time] He didn’t put any proposals on the table: He insisted on [Yakov] Litzman and [Bezalel] Smotrich. He insisted on being prime minister first in the rotation. He did everything to ensure it wouldn’t work.” In his former role as the finance minister, Lapid served under a Netanyahu government.

Lieberman also told his party that Netanyahu wants another election – which would be the third this year. “He’s playing a blame game. He talks about unity and is leading us to early elections,” Lieberman said. “We can only hope that despite everything, we achieve a broad liberal unity government. It would be irresponsible to impose another half-year of paralysis to the nation,” he added.

Lieberman vowed that Yisrael Beiteinu would not join a narrow right-wing government and added that Netanyahu can’t continue negotiating on behalf of a right-wing bloc, and also insist on being first in the rotation.

One of Kahol Lavan’s demands in negotiating a unity government with Likud is that Netanyahu disassemble the right-wing bloc he himself established, and speak on behalf of his party alone. Another dispute is who will be prime minister first in a rotation deal, Netanyahu or Gantz. Kahol Lavan points out that it got more seats in the second election this year and is the biggest party in the Knesset.