Netanyahu Warns of 'Unprecedented Emergency' if Gantz Forms Government Backed by Arab Party

PM claims Kahol Lavan is trying to establish coalition backed by Joint List, which would pose 'historic danger to Israel's security' ■ Gantz meets Rivlin for consultations

Benny Gantz and Avigdor Lieberman speak to the media after their meeting in Ramat Gan, November 14, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Saturday against the possibility that Benny Gantz will establish a minority government, which Netanyahu says will be backed by Arab lawmakers. "We are facing an emergency that is unprecedented in the history of the State of Israel," he said.

Haaretz WeeklyHaaretz

"There is an agreement among Kahol Lavan [leaders] to go for a minority government with the Joint List. We know for a fact that they made this decision," the prime minister claimed in an emergency meeting he held with Likud lawmakers.

"[Going for another] election is a disaster, but setting up a government that depends on the Arab parties is an even bigger disaster. It's a historic danger to Israel's security. It will gravely hurt the security of Israel," the premier continued.

Netanyahu also told ministers from his party that such a government "will rely on supporters of Islamic Jihad and Hamas," taking a jab at Israeli Arab lawmakers. "[Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor] Lieberman ... has made a deal with them. None of them is denying it. We can't let that happen," he added.

Netanyahu's remarks mark a peak in a political campaign he has been running in recent weeks that targets Arab alliance Joint List, Kahol Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu in an attempt to stop Gantz from forming a minority government without Likud.

The prime minister doubled down on his remarks on Twitter, tweeting: "A minority government that is dependant on the Arab parties, who want to put our soldiers on trial as 'war criminals' = a danger to the State of Israel and a slap in the face of Israel Defense Forces soldiers."

He also shared a report by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson's pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, which supported his claims that Kahol Lavan intends to join forces with the Joint List.

Likud said it will hold an "emergency rally" on Sunday in Tel Aviv to protest "a minority government supported by the Arab parties."

Gantz took to Facebook to retort: "Netanyahu, I see you've used the term 'emergency' because there is a chance that your rule will be over soon. So no, an emergency is when hundreds of rockets are fired at the people of Israel."

The former army chief of staff added: "Netanyahu, it's time you got it: I will do everything to prevent you from dragging the people of Israel to a third election. I said this all along and I'm calling on you to do it today. Join a direct negotiation without your immunity bloc, without tricks or spins. What has worked for you for 10 years won't work anymore."

Kahol Lavan sources say negotiations stuck

Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly government meeting, Jerusalem, November 13, 2019.
Emil Salman

Gantz has until Wednesday to secure a coalition, at the end of a 28-day period he was given by President Reuven Rivlin to complete the task. Gantz and Rivlin met for consultations on Saturday evening, per Gantz's request.

Should Gantz fail, lawmakers will have 21 days to nominate any Knesset member who has the backing of at least 61 of them, who would then be tasked with forming a government.

The prime minister's campaign against a minority government went on even during the two-day round of fighting against Islamic Jihad, which ended Thursday when a cease-fire between Israel and the group came into effect. On Wednesday, Netanyahu made an address at the Knesset in which he attacked Joint List MKs.

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh took to Twitter to address Netanyahu's latest comments. "Netanyahu is a cynical politician who lost two consecutive elections and will only leave charred ground behind him in a desperate attempt to hang on to his job. Magician, time for you to make a trick and disappear. The Arab and Jewish citizens are more important than you."

Senior Kahol Lavan members told Haaretz there has been no progress in Gantz's coalition talks. According to the sources, Gantz isn't ruling out a minority government backed by the Joint List, who won't join the coalition, which will allow him more time to negotiate a national unity government with Likud.

Nonetheless, Kahol Lavan have clarified that this move is stipulated on Lieberman's approval; the former defense minister has yet to green light such a development. Kahol Lavan indicated that until Lieberman gives his consent, they would not contact the Joint List to promote the move.

In a Facebook post, Lieberman reiterated on Saturday his support for a national unity government with both Kahol Lavan and Likud, who together have 65 out of 120 Knesset seats. According to Lieberman, the two parties "have no ideological gaps, but personal rivalries."

Lieberman and Gantz, who last met on Thursday, are expected meet again on Monday, while their negotiation teams are slated to convene Sunday. The two parties have already agreed on budgetary demands posed by Lieberman, while Gantz completed budget negotiations with Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union.