What happened: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz met yesterday with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman, for the first time since the election to discuss a future government’s guidelines and shared principles. Gantz accepted Lieberman’s demands including the introduction of civil marriages and public transport on the Sabbath – effectively a revolution in relations between state and religion in the country.
- Gantz also spoke yesterday with Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, Joint List Faction Chairman Ahmed Tibi and Raam Chairman Mansour Abbas. Gantz repeated his commitment to form a government that will serve all of Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, and to working toward preventing a fourth election. Gantz did not speak to Mtanes Shehadeh, the leader of Balad. However, Odeh made it clear, “the Joint List will act to advance the interests of all the citizens as a united faction, with all four of its components.”
- Gantz’s approach to the Joint List has caused discomfort among some of its MKs, particularly MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser from the Telem faction, who oppose a minority government with the support of the Joint List.
- MK Moshe Yaalon, who heads the Telem faction within Blue and White has demanded they either support the minority government or resign from the Knesset. There was also a threat to remove the two from the party list in the event there are fourth elections.
- Gantz said: “In Blue and White there can be a variety of opinions, but there is only one position and one decision – that of the chairman of the party. Not that of senior officials or associates.”
Context: Netanyahu’s right wing ultra-orthodox bloc has 58 seats, three short of a parliamentary majority. Blue and White and the “anti-Netanyahu” bloc has 62 seats but is divided over the question of accepting Joint List support to form a government.
- Other Blue and White MKs; Gabi Ashkenazi and Chili Tropper also oppose a minority government but have not joined Hauser and Hendel’s rebellion. Without Hendel and Hauser, Gantz’s majority over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc would fall to 60-58 and make Gantz reliant on the three MKs of Balad, the most controversial Arab party in the Knesset, whose MKs have in the past been prosecuted and convicted for aiding terrorist groups.
- The rebels in Blue and White would need to resign, but they cannot be sacked. Unlike a prime minister who can fire a minister, the leader of a party cannot dismiss an elected MK. If they were to resign their seats then the next candidates on the Blue and White party list, who didn’t win Knesset seats, would take their place
Looking ahead: Blue and White Chairman Avi Nissenkorn and MK Ofer Shelah will meet today with four members of the Joint List, one from each faction, including Balad. They will try to find out whether the Joint List intends to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Benny Gantz be asked to form the government.
- Tomorrow the Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Neal Hendel will formally submit the results of the elections to President Rivlin.
- On Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin will meet with representatives of all the parties, after which he will ask a party leader to attempt to form a government. After the September election he first asked Benjamin Netanyahu and when he couldn’t build a coalition Rivlin asked Gantz who also failed.