Gantz Requests Meeting With President Rivlin Four Days Before Coalition Talks Deadline

As negotiations with other party leaders stall, Gantz seeks consultation with the president, whose unity deal faces opposition within Kahol Lavan

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Benny Gantz and President Reuven Rivlin at a memorial for Yitzhak Rabin, Jerusalem, November 10, 2019
Benny Gantz and President Reuven Rivlin at a memorial for Yitzhak Rabin, Jerusalem, November 10, 2019Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz is slated to meet President Reuven Rivlin on Saturday, four days before the end of the 28-day period given to him to form a coalition following Israel's September 17 election.

Gantz, who requested to meet at Rivlin's official residence in Jerusalem, is expected to discuss with the president the progress that has been made so far in negotiations with other parties and consult him on the way forward.

Haaretz WeeklyCredit: Haaretz

Rivlin, who tapped Gantz to attempt to form a coalition after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so, has been in contact with all party leaders. He is also expected to meet representatives from several parties who asked to see him, including the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties and ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Having failed to secure a majority coalition so far, Gantz turned to Facebook on Friday calling on leaders of right-wing parties to "release Netanyahu of his commitment to the bloc and let him hold direct negotiations." Other right-wing parties have urged Netanyahu and his Likud party to include them in talks of any potential coalition being discussed, while Kahol Lavan and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu have been calling for a national unity government made up primarily of the Knesset's two biggest parties – Kahol Lavan and Likud.

Should Gantz fail to form a coalition by the time his mandate expires, lawmakers would 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.

Gantz and Lieberman met on Thursday and said they will move forward with negotiations to form a government, despite no clear progress in coalition talks.

Netanyahu invited Lieberman for a meeting on Sunday, but it is unclear whether Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, who has called on the prime minister to break up his alliance with ultra-Orthodox parties, intends to attend it.

Lieberman said he was still waiting for "a statement from all the heads of Kahol Lavan that they will accept" Rivlin’s proposal for a national unity government, which stipulates that Gantz and Netanyahu hold a rotation for the premiership, with Netanyahu going first.

Gantz said after the meeting: “I made my position clear about the options on the table – I’m willing to consider every option that will meet my principles concerning an indictment,” referring to the corruption cases pending against Netanyahu.

Whereas Gantz has signaled his willingness to accept such a proposal, other co-leaders of his party, mainly Yair Lapid, have been vocal in their opposition to any government with Netanyahu.

The four leaders of Kahol Lavan can sometime find it hard to share the wheel. Credit: Eran Wolkowski

In Rivlin's proposal, Netanyahu would step down as prime minister if he is indicted.

Netanyahu's Likud party is preparing for the prospect that he will be indicted on Tuesday. Party officials have received information that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will be announcing the filing of the indictment within four days, or at the very latest prior to a prosecutors' conference in Eilat scheduled for November 26.

The party is now planning a public relations effort to scuttle public demands for the prime minister to be declared incapacitated and take an immediate leave of absence if an indictment is filed.

In February, Mendelblit recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud and breach of trust in cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery and breach of trust on Case 4000, pending a hearing. Mendelblit did so after consulting with more than 20 senior legal officials who scrutinized the evidence in the cases, some of which were under investigation for more than three years.

In October, Netanyahu's four-day pre-indictment hearing was held with Mendelblit deciding not to extend the deliberations.

Case 4000, believed to be the most serious of the cases against Netanyahu, centers on suspicions that the prime minister acted to advance the interests of media mogul Shaul Elovitch in a manner that helped the Bezeq owner profit by more than a billion shekels. In return, Netanyahu and his wife Sara received favorable news coverage on the Walla website that is under Elovitch's control.

Case 2000 revolves around Netanyahu’s ties with Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the publisher of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The prime minister is suspected of offering to promote legislation that would curb Yedioth’s main competitor, the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, in return for better coverage of the prime minister in Mozes’ publication as well as its news site Ynet.

Case 1000 centers on suspicions that Netanyahu received lavish gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from tycoons, primarily Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Milchan and his former business partner, Australian billionaire James Packer, are suspected of having given Netanyahu and his wife boxes full of champagne bottles, cigars and other goods, per the Netanyahus’ demands.

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