Netanyahu, Gantz Talks to Avoid Third Israeli Election End at Impasse

Netanyahu says he suggested legislation to prevent breaching of rotation deal ■ Kahol Lavan charge that PM didn't commit to avoid trying to obtain immunity from prosecution

Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, Jerusalem, October 11, 2019.
Ohad Zweygberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz Tuesday in Tel Aviv in a last-ditch effort to form a unity government and avoid sending Israel to a third round of elections in a year. 

However, the meeting ended with no formal deal. According to a statement by Netanyahu, he suggested passing legislation that would prevent either side from breaching a rotationa agreement. Despite this, Kahol Lavan still refuses to establish a unity government due to party No. 2 Yair Lapid's veto against it, the premier claimed in his statement. 

Kahol Lavan said upon the meeting's conclusion that Netanyahu "did not bring any new suggestions that correspond to his legal situation or an awareness of his loss in the election, or any new suggestions at all. In the meeting, he even refused to commit to basic principles of a government or that he will avoid trying to obtain personal immunity" from the indictments against him. 

"In short," the statement said, "Netanyahu decided on elections." Despite this, the statement continued, attempts to form a unity government will continue.    

An earlier meeting on Monday between representatives of the two parties was concluded with "significant differences."

The Knesset's mandate to recommend a candidate for forming a government expires in eight days.

On Monday, Gantz said at a Kahol Lavan faction meeting that he was not interested in another elections, but said he would not be ready to form a "nightmare government."

In his remarks, Gantz addressed Netanyahu: "Kahol Lavan won the elections, but we are ready for a rotation. I will serve a two-year term while you try to remain as head of the Likud."

Likud replied: "It's unfortunate that Benny Gantz does not accept the challenge of a unity government, which will offer historic opportunities for the State of Israel - including a defense alliance with the United States and the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Don't miss out."

The head of the Election Committee Attorney Orly Ades announced Monday that if the Knesset is dispersed next Wednesday, the closest date for elections to be held is February 25, 2020 - about two weeks shorter than the schedule required by the Government Basic Law.

The head of the Knesset's legislative committee, Avi Nissenkorn of Kahol Lavan, is expected to consider Tuesday along with the faction leaders, the possibility of moving up the elections on February 25 or March 3. If the factions reach an agreement, the Knesset will begin to advance swift legislation to amend the Knesset Basic Law by the beginning of next week.