Lieberman on Unity Government: We Are Waiting on Gantz's Party, From Netanyahu It's a 'No'

Kahol Lavan leader met with Yisrael Beiteinu chairman in bid to end political deadlock, but no clear path to coalition emerges

Benny Gantz and Avigdor Lieberman at their meeting in Kfar Maccabiah, November 14, 2019.
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Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz said Thursday they will move forward with negotiations to form a government, after a meeting that ended with no clear progress in coalition talks.

Lieberman said he was still waiting for "a statement from all the heads of Kahol Lavan that they will accept President [Reuven Rivlin’s] framework” for a national unity government, which stipulates that Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a rotation for the premiership, with Netanyahu going first.

Lieberman described the meeting as good, saying that "from Netanyahu we heard a definite 'no,' whereas here I didn’t hear 'no,' but I also didn’t hear an affirmative 'yes.'"

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following the meeting with Gantz, Lieberman announced that he will be meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday. 

Gantz said after the meeting: “I made my position clear about the options on the table – I’m willing to consider every option that will meet my principles concerning an indictment,” referring to the corruption cases pending against Netanyahu.

Whereas Gantz has signaled his willingness to accept such a proposal, other co-leaders of his party, mainly Yair Lapid, have been vocal in their opposition to any government with Netanyahu.

In Rivlin's proposal, Netanyahu would step down as prime minister if he is indicted.

“Netanyahu is keeping his [right-wing] bloc and is trying for a [new] election,” said Gantz. He added that he has scheduled to meet with Lieberman again early next week, and that they will continue to cooperate.

Lieberman met with Rivlin for consultations Wednesday. Last weekend, Lieberman demanded that Gantz accept Rivlin’s proposal for a rotation government, under which Netanyahu would serve as prime minister first but would declare himself incapacitated if indicted, allowing Gantz to take over as acting prime minister. Lieberman demanded from Netanyahu to dismantle his bloc with the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties.

Lieberman told Channel 12 News Wednesday night that he doesn’t see a unity government backed from outside by the predominantly Arab Joint List as a realistic option, but refused to deny outright that he would support such a government.

Lieberman said there were options for creating a unity government without help from the Joint List, which he called a “fifth column, people who want to destroy the State of Israel from the inside and are working against its interests. We are not talking about them as an option…The option is national unity; it is the best thing for Israel. Any attempt for a minority government is a prescription for failure,” added Lieberman.

Lieberman did not dismiss the possibility of the ultra-Orthodox parties joining such a government, “on the basis of the existing budget and the government principles.”

When asked if he saw a solution to the political crisis, Lieberman said: “There are always solutions. The worst thing that can happen is an election. In the end, what are we arguing about? Who is first and when the rotation is. This is not a deep ideological dispute about critical things.” As to the ultimatum he gave to the heads of the two largest parties, Lieberman said: “I haven’t heard clear things; I heard a lot of evasion.”

National unity “is supposed to serve more than a specific event, however grave,” Gantz said on Wednesday, referring to the events in the south. “Unity is very important,” he said during a tour of Sderot, near the border with the Gaza Strip. “I call for unity all the time and try to promote unity.”

Nonetheless, he said: “There are many important things in Israel. There are values, there are principles, there’s the law, and there are democratic issues. I don’t advise taking one specific event and wrapping everything up with it.” While he said the decision to assassinate senior Islamic Jihad official Baha Abu al-Ata on Tuesday was the right one, it “won’t affect political developments.”