Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90
Avigdor Liberman and Benny Gantz, November 14, 2019.

Three days before the mandate given to Benny Gantz by President Rivlin expires, Blue&White’s leaders have agreed with Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman to accelerate their meetings to establish a minority government with the support of Joint Arab List MKs, Israel Hayom, a distinctly pro-Likud news outlet, reported Saturday night.

The aim is to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be more flexible in his conditions for the establishment of a unity government.

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According to Kan 11 News, number 3 in Blue&White, MK Moshe Ya’alon, told party chairman Benny Gantz that he would agree to a minority government that would lean on the Joint Arab List, provided that Liberman and his party vote in favor of the move.

According to Israel Hayom, the parties will reach the threshold of signing such a coalition agreement this week, and leave Netanyahu with the choice of joining without his Haredi and national-religious partners in the 55-MKs rightwing bloc, and with additional concessions regarding his immunity from prosecution.

Should Netanyahu fail to join, Blue&White would establish a minority government by Wednesday, the day the president’s mandate will expire.

Incidentally, Liberman, forever the blushing bride, has yet to pledge his support for such a minority government should Netanyahu refuse to join a unity government with Gantz in order to prevent new elections.

Blue&White officials have confirmed Saturday night that they are, indeed, promoting a minority government that would lean on the support of Arab MKs. They call it a “transitional government.”

“We want to hammer in a unity government with the Likud right now,” Blue&White party officials said, stressing: “We have not given up because we believe it’s possible, and we are working on it on many levels, but we are near the deadline and prefer to introduce a transitional government. A minority government is not something we strive for, but there’s nothing else we can do. This move is going to make other parties (meaning the rightwing bloc – DI) negotiate with us.”

They also made it clear that “such a government will get us Benny Gantz as prime minister.”

One of the key disagreements within the Blue&White leadership has to do with Netanyahu’s leave of absence, which is an essential part of President Rivlin’s proposed outline for a rotation government. According to the president’s proposal, Netanyahu would serve first in the rotation government of Likud and Blue&White, with Gantz serving as his deputy. Should charges be brought against Netanyahu, he would place himself on a leave of absence and Gantz would seize full power as PM. Should Netanyahu be acquitted, he would return and serve as prime minister until the end of his rotation, to be then replaced by Gantz once again.

Gantz supports the idea, Yair Lapid and Ya’alon oppose it, and Gabi Ashkenazi is swinging, but tends to support Gantz. It comes down to trusting that Netanyahu would keep his word and not go rogue, seeking Knesset support for his immunity from prosecution.

Saturday night, Gantz met with the president, and updated him on “the status of the coalition negotiations. They also discussed the components of the president’s outline in an attempt to prevent new elections.”

Earlier, Gantz attacked Netanyahu’s remarks that “we are in an emergency the likes of which the State of Israel has never seen before,” meaning Blue&White’s plan to form a minority government with the support of the Joint Arab List.

“Netanyahu, I saw that you used the term ’emergency’ because there’s a chance your rule will end soon,” Gantz tweeted, adding, “So, no. An emergency is hundreds of missiles launched at the citizens of the State of Israel. What has worked for you for 10 years will no longer work.”

Gantz called on Netanyahu to hold direct negotiations with him “without tricks or spins.”

“Netanyahu, internalize this: I will do everything to prevent you from dragging the citizens of Israel into an election campaign for the third time,” Ganz tweeted.

Evidently, the Gantz minority government would include 47 MKs, from Blue&White, Labor-Gesher and Israel Beiteinu.

The Blue&White rightwing faction—Moshe Ya’alon, Yoaz Handel and Zvika Hauser—insists that Liberman and his party not merely abstain or be absent in a vote to approve this government, but instead support it with direct votes, to enhance its legitimacy.

Meretz, with whom Lieberman is not prepared to sit in government, would support Gantz from the outside, as would four MKs from the Joint Arab List. This would provide Gantz with 56 votes, one more than the rightwing bloc’s 55.

And now, Gantz must get a real commitment from four Arab MKs to support Liberman’s appointment as minister in his government, or the whole thing comes crashing down.

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