After a fateful hour of talks, the two party leaders remain at a stalemate and the clock is ticking.
By GIL HOFFMAN, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz held what was seen as a dramatic meeting on Tuesday night, 26 hours before Gantz’s mandate to form a government expires.
Gantz said after the meeting, that “I have said time and time again that Israel needs a broad and liberal unity government, consisting primarily of the two major parties and led by Blue and White.
President Reuven Rivlin and coalition kingmaker Avigdor Liberman both tried to mediate between Netanyahu and Gantz and to push them to make compromises for unity. Rivlin met with Netanyahu and the Likud negotiating team, while Liberman held separate meetings with Netanyahu and then Gantz.
“The president was updated on the political situation by his guests,” Rivlin’s office said after the meeting with Netanyahu and the Likud negotiators. “He reiterated that he believes Israel needs a strong unity government that will be as wide as possible.”
To that end, Gantz asked Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz to join a unity government, in which Netanyahu and Gantz would alternate in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office. Peretz refused, saying that he would keep his promise to his voters to not join any government led by Netanyahu, whose criminal indictments are expected to be finalized and announced at the beginning of next week.
The caretaker prime minister is set to meet Lieberman again on Wednesday in an attempt to establish a national unity government, Likud said. Netanyahu met with Liberman for the second time in three days on Tuesday morning at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
Following the Tuesday meeting, the two released a joint statement saying, “it was a good and professional meeting and the two of them will continue their efforts to form a unity government.”
KAN Radio reported Tuesday morning that in order to draw Liberman into the government without giving him what he wants on matters of religion and state, Netanyahu would offer him ministries and Knesset committees that have been controlled by United Torah Judaism and Shas.
In a sign of improving ties between Netanyahu and Liberman, Yisrael Beytenu postponed the advancement of a bill that would have made it easier to split the Likud faction.