Netanyahu Has No Chance of Forming Gov't Even After Third Election, Senior Likud Official Says

Meanwhile, kingmaker Lieberman says he has come under 'a campaign of pressure and enticement' to join narrow government led by Netanyahu

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Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa'ar touring the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, December 10, 2010.
Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa'ar touring the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, December 10, 2010. Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's major rival in Likud, Gideon Sa'ar, said Tuesday that the premier won’t be able to form a governing coalition even if a third election cycle within a year takes place.

Speaking during a tour of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, Sa'ar said that Netanyahu "doesn't have a chance to form a government, even if we hold a third election," adding that he doesn't intend to leave Likud.

"Likud is my home, where I'm running [for party leadership] and only there," Sa'ar said.

Furthermore, Sa'ar noted that according to a poll released Monday by the Kan public broadcaster, if an election were to be held now, the right-wing bloc would be larger with Sa'ar at the helm of Likud than with Netanyahu.

Khan al-Ahmar is in the vicinity of the Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim. It is home to several dozen families from the Jahalin Bedouin tribe. The tribe is originally from the Negev and was expelled to the West Bank in the 1950s.

The village was built without permission from Israeli planning authorities. In 2017, the Israeli government announced its intention to evacuate it.

Sa'ar said the evacuation needs to be proceed immediately. "If it had involved a Jewish outpost," he said, "it would have been evacuated long ago."

Earlier Tuesday, Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said that he has recently come under "a campaign of pressure and enticement" to join a narrow coalition government. "We have been offered every possible position in the cabinet and the Knesset, all just to join," Lieberman wrote on Facebook, adding that he categorically rejected all offers.

Lieberman, whose party garnered eight Knesset seats in September's election, is a key figure in Israel's deadlocked electoral process, and his support would be necessary to the formation of a Netanyahu-led government.

Addressing Netanyahu and his main challenger, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Lieberman urged the two "to rise above narrow political considerations and form a unity government for the sake of the people of Israel."    

After two failed rounds of unity talks, the first led by Netanyahu immediately after the September 17 election and the second by Gantz, any Knesset member with the backing of at least 61 lawmakers can be tasked with forming a coalition. Lawmakers have until Wednesday at midnight to nominate a candidate. If no Knesset member manages to garner sufficient support, the Knesset will dissolve and an election will be held on March 2.

Lieberman said that if a government is not formed until the deadline expires, it would be because Netanyahu and Gantz "were not prepared to forgo their egos and were unable to come to an understanding on who would be prime minister first and when the rotation [between them as prime minister] would take place. Everything else is stories and excuses."

On Monday, Netanyahu called on Lieberman "to enter stepped-up negotiations in the 48 hours that remain and form a strong national government for Israel."