Kahol Lavan head Benny Gantz spoke to leaders from the Arab majority Joint List Monday, reiterating his intention to form a government that will serve all of Israel's citizens, both Jews and Arabs.
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Speaking with Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, senior lawmaker Ahmad Tibi and MK Mansour Abbas, Gantz also repeated intentions to "prevent a fourth election." An additional meeting with all four factions of the Joint List is slated for Tuesday due to the fact that Balad was absent from the meeting.
Odeh also spoke on the importance of joint cooperation, tweeted after the meeting: “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.”
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Before speaking to leaders from the Joint List, 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.
Lieberman thanked Gantz for the "truly good" meeting, adding that out of all the scenarios ahead, a fourth election would be the worst. Only after the president gives a candidate the mandate to form a government, though, will the parties be able to advance accordingly in their negotiations, Lieberman stated.
Lieberman and Gantz share one fundamental aim – to force Benjamin Netanyahu out of the Prime Minister’s Office.
It remains unclear whether Lieberman will simply accept a government that has the outside support of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties or whether he will seek to form a unity government once Netanyahu has been removed.
A senior Joint List source told Haaretz that Kahol Lavan asked for an additional meeting so that all representatives from the four factions of the Joint List can be included due to the fact that Balad was absent from Monday's meeting.
According to the lawmaker, the party factions agreed to hold the "unprecedented" talks on Tuesday.
Balad chairman Mtanes Shehadeh said he “wasn’t expecting a phone call from Gantz, and wasn’t surprised when he didn’t call.” He stressed his faction “is part of the Joint List and shall remain so,” stressing that its main goal is “to oust Netanyahu and his racist policy.”
In response to the report of Gantz's conversation with the Joint List, Balad lawmaker Sami Abu Shehadeh tweeted: “The politics of conquer and divide… can’t work now… Gantz doesn’t understand that the Joint List is not Kahol Lavan. We’re united.”
“He should first solve his problem with Hauser and Hendel and then think forward,” Abu Shehadeh added.
Shehadeh was referring to the two right-wing members of Kahol Lavan, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, who have drawn criticism within Kahol Lavan over their opposition to forming a minority government supported by the Joint List.
After Channel 12 news quoted party officials as saying the two will not be included in the slate because of their stance, Gantz said that Kahol Lavan "can have a variety of opinions, but there is only one position and one decision – that of the party chairman."
Lieberman himself is remaining vague and even his party colleagues aren’t certain what his position is. So far Lieberman has not denied a report by Channel 12 that his efforts to halt Netanyahu’s rule stem from a personal desire for revenge, since he believes Netanyahu is behind efforts to implicate his children in wrongdoing.
Some in Kahol Lavan interpret that report as meaning that Lieberman would return to the right as soon as Netanyahu is forced out of politics. Kahol Lavan officials also suspect that Lieberman would prefer a unity government without Netanyahu to a government relies on the support of Arab MKs.
On Sunday, Lieberman posted his demands on Facebook: An allowance totaling 70 percent of the minimum wage for all elderly living on guaranteed income allowances and old age pensions; transferring the decision-making on whether public transportation and businesses can operate on Shabbat to local governments; passage of a law introduced previously introduced on the drafting of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students; legalizing civil marriage; and allowing municipal rabbis to form their own rabbinical courts to perform conversions.
In his response, Gantz tweeted, “Agreed. We need to move forward.”