Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz follows President Reuven Rivlin with the mandate to form the next Israeli coalition government, October 23, 2019.

After receiving the mandate to assemble the next government from President Reuven Rivlin, Blue&White Chairman Benny Gantz spoke to leaders of the rightwing bloc on Wednesday evening in an attempt to convince them to negotiate with him individually.

But in a phone call between Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter made it clear that he would be conducting the negotiations on behalf of all 55 members of the rightwing bloc.

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Before midnight, Gantz announced he had talked to 14 party leaders, adding: “I will do everything possible to fulfill the given mandate and to form a liberal, broad unity government, and avoid an unnecessary and costly [third] election.”

Agudat Yisrael chairman and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman refused to meet with Gantz on the grounds that the Likud represents the United Torah Judaism faction as part of the rightwing bloc.

New Right chairwoman Ayelet Shaked refused to meet with Gantz, saying she would conduct negotiations exclusively through the Likud team.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri told Gantz that his party had empowered the Likud negotiating team to conduct talks on its behalf with Blue&White. He noted that a broad unity government, according to the president’s outline, is the only way to establish a stable government that would work for national reconciliation and the unification of the people.

The president’s outline calls for a rotation government led by a partnership of Likud and Blue&White, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister in the first half of the rotation and Gantz serving as deputy prime minister. Should Netanyahu be required to spend his time in court facing criminal indictments, he would take a leave of absence, and Gantz would replace him as prime minister, with all the powers conferred on the position. Netanyahu would be able to resume his job if he is acquitted in court, but at the end of two years, the positions would be changed: Gantz will be the bona fide prime minister and Netanyahu would be his deputy.

The Blue&White and Likud teams will meet on Sunday at noon, followed two hours later by a meeting between Blue&White and the Israel Beiteinu teams. On Tuesday, the Blue&White team will hold meetings with Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Camp (Meretz).

Gantz also agreed to meet MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, the co-chairmen of the Joint Arab List.

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