Rivlin Urges 'Crazy' Politicians Not to 'Drag All Israelis Into' Political Dead End

President lambastes 'long, exhausting, aimless negotiations' after yet another Likud-Kahol Lavan meeting that ended with no breakthrough, just a week before a deadline to prevent a new election

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the official memorial ceremony for David Ben-Gurion, December 4, 2019.
Mark Neiman / GPO

President Reuven Rivlin called Wednesday on leaders of major political parties “who have been holding long, exhausting, aimless negotiations for months” to reach their conclusion.

Quoting a well-known Hebrew children’s poem, Rivlin said while speaking at the David Ben-Gurion memorial“it seems you just want to go crazy. If this is your will, go crazy! But why drag along the entire people of Israel?

“There’s still time and it can be fixed,” Rivlin added. “We must remember that neither the pen nor the cannon are sacred, but are both only tools in the real mission we must take on, ensuring Israel’s peace as a Jewish and democratic state.

“Angry tweets, raging Facebook posts and even demonstrations in city squares don’t spell a civil war or the demise of democracy. Truth be told, there are some harsh expressions… that shouldn’t have been uttered, but not every statement is incitement,” the president said.

“Our democracy is in crisis … but not in danger. As long as we can appreciate our political rival’s devotion to the State of Israel … even if we completely disagree with their political path, we can come out of this crisis and steer the Israeli ship back to its course,” he continued.

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz said Wednesday while touring Israeli communities near the Gaza border the he hopes “we don’t get to a third election, in spite of all the statements.”

After Tuesday’s negotiation meeting that ended with no breakthrough, he called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “look me and Israeli citizens in the eyes and say what he thinks and what he wants instead of ridding himself of responsibility.”

Netanyahu also said Wednsday that he “expressed deep frustration felt by many in Likud and in the general public over the fact that after the generous proposals we gave Kahol Lavan, they wouldn’t move even a nanometer… They simply refuse [a unity government], which clashes with very important national interests, because of the individual interests of one person, Yair Lapid."

Likud has argued Kahol Lavan co-leader Lapid is behind the party’s objection to sit in a government with Netanyahu.

If unity talks fail, “we’ll go to election, and we’ll win it,” Netanyahu added.

In coalition talks with Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, which now appear to be at an impasse, Netanyahu – facing indictment in three corruption cases –has insisted on serving first in the case of a rotation unity government. His argument is that he wants to "exhaust processes" which he started with the Trump administration, most notably regarding annexation.

Earlier, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said that Knesset members from his faction "are riling up against the conduct of Kahol Lavan" in their refusal to allow Netanyahu to serve first in a rotation.

When asked on the Knesset Channel whether he still rules out entering a narrow, right-wing government, he said: "It's hard to rule out what's worse, an early election or a narrow government." Kahol Lavan officials are unsure whether Lieberman is weighing the option or using it as a political ploy to pressure them; on Monday, Lieberman promised he wouldn't join such a government. 

If an agreement is not reached, and if no Knesset member manages to obtain 61 supporters to gain the mandate to try and form a coalition by next Wednesday, the Knesset will dissolve and Israelis will be forced to head to the polls once more.