The negotiating teams of Israel's two largest parties, Likud and Kahol Lavan, met Friday in Jerusalem, their first encounter since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the mandate to form a new government from President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday.
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 42
The meeting, which lasted four hours, ended with no agreements on a national unity government, and the delegations decided to reconvene on Sunday.
Kahol Lavan released a statement after the meeting and saying that the Likud negotiation team insisted that "as a pre-condition, Kahol Lavan agree to a government with Netanyahu at the helm as prime minister and based on the bloc of 55 [right-wing lawmakers]." Kahol Lavan rejects these demands.
Kahol Lavan added that Likud knew in advance such a deal would not be acceptable and that "the two pre-conditions prove [Likud's] intention to send Israel to a third election, as the prime minister desires."
“The Israeli public does not want a third election. They want a broad unity government,” the head of the Likud negotiating team, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, told reporters just before the meeting. “If we don’t succeed in this process, in the end, whoever thwarts it will be sending the Israeli people to an election for the third time.”
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Levin and Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, who is also representing Likud in the negotiations, made it clear that they do not intend on leaving the parties of the right-wing bloc out of the negotiations.
“We are acting with all our partners as a united and unified bloc that will only join the government together. We expect that no partner will be ruled out,” said Levin.
Before giving Netanyahu the mandate to form a government, Rivlin first proposed to Netanyahu and Gantz a framework in which the two would serve together, in practice, as co-prime ministers.
Netanyahu agreed, but Gantz refused after much consideration, Haaretz has learned. Rivlin proposed a government of two equal sized blocs, in which the responsibilities of the co-premier would be expanded – if the prime minister is “incapacitated” for whatever reason.
Israel's Basic Law on the Government deals with incapacity but doesn’t specify the circumstances under which a prime minister could become unable to fulfill his duties. Currently, the legal situation is that an indictment is not grounds for suspending a prime minister, unlike ministers, who must resign if facing indictment.
Rivlin did not mention Netanyahu’s legal situation, but was likely referring to the possibility that, under a coalition agreement, the premier would have to leave his post, at least temporarily, if indicted. In that case, Rivlin intimated, the effective powers of the premiership would go to the co-premier, while the “incapacitated” prime minister would retain the title and continue to live in the residence on Balfour Street.