Labor Lawmaker Tries to Help Knesset Speaker Get a Crack at Forming Government

Omer Bar-Lev says he will attempt to gather the requisite 61 signatures to recommend that Likud's number two, Yuli Edelstein, establish a coalition

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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference, Jerusalem, September 12, 2019.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference, Jerusalem, September 12, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Labor lawmaker Omer Bar-Lev said Saturday that he would try to collect the requisite 61 signatures from Knesset members in order to recommend Yuli Edelstein, Knesset speaker and Likud lawmaker, to form the government. Edelstein holds the second spot on the Likud roster.

Speaking at a public lecture in Tel Aviv, Bar-Lev said he was garnering support for Edelstein because he is the Knesset speaker, "not because I'm getting involved with Likud's in-fighting."

“It will take a lot of courage for the various parties to realize that this might be the only way to avoid a third election, and they'll have to give up a lot of ego," Bar-Lev said.

Labor lawmaker Omer Bar-Lev at a conference in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Labor Party responded by saying that Bar-Lev's initiative does not reflect the party's position — the party is maintaining its commitment to sign an agreement only with Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz.

The office of the Knesset speaker issued the following response to the report: "Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has made a supreme effort in recent weeks to prevent an election, and is attempting to mediate between all the sides of the political system, as all the party heads have seen up close. The only way to prevent an excessive, expensive election is to create a unity government with a rotating premiership between Netanyahu and Gantz. There are four days left to compose ourselves and do the only right thing for the State of Israel and its citizens."

Only four days remain before the allotted time expires for the Knesset to choose a candidate to form the government. If no Knesset member is able to garner the support of 61 lawmakers, then the Knesset will dissolve and a new election will be called. So far, no one has been able to collect 61 signatures, and no progress has been made on a unity government between Likud and Kahol Lavan.

Ofer Shelah of Kahol Lavan said on Saturday that he blames Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the political crisis. “We made every effort to avoid it, but Netanyahu was intent on a third election,” he remarked.

Shelah added that Likud’s negotiators refused to compromise on any of their demands. Among the Likud's conditions are that Netanyahu serve first in a rotation of the premiership and that the entire bloc of 55 right-wing lawmakers who support granting Netanyahu immunity in the corruption cases against him be included in the coalition. Shelah also claimed that Likud has demonstrated inflexibility on policy points important to the Labor Party.

Likud responded: “There is one reason why Kahol Lavan rejected the generous offers of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which would have enabled the establishment of a broad national unity government: Lack of leadership by Benny Gantz” to oppose what Likud said was fellow Kahol Lavan member Yair Lapid’s desire to serve as prime minister.