Coalition talks collapse, unity government looks far away despite progress

“Understanding was reached on all issues in preparation for signing an agreement,” Blue and White said.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Monday was supposed to end with the happy announcement that the two parties had reached agreement. A government would be formed. Instead, coalition negotiations between Likud and Blue and White collapsed.

The issue that exploded the talks was that of the selection of judges to the High Court. The Likud had conceded the issue to Blue and White, giving it power over the court’s makeup, but reversed itself, apparently regretting the decision, and reopened the issue on Monday, causing Blue and White to pull away from the negotiating table.

“Understanding was reached on all issues in preparation for signing an agreement – but the Likud sought to re-discuss the issue of the Judicial Selection Committee,” Blue and White said in a statement.

While Likud had conceded on judicial selections, Blue and White had conceded on the matter of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Likud wanted to bring the issue up with the Americans in four months. Blue and White had argued for six months or a more vague timeline in which first the coronavirus emergency would be fully addressed.

According to reports, the Likud had succeeded in winning agreement in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would only have to wait two-and-a-half months before bringing up the sovereignty issue with the Trump administration. Trump’s deal of the century affords Israel the chance to extend sovereignty over more than 30 percent of Judea and Samaria.

The breakdown in talks may have resulted from strong protests by politicians to the right of Netanyahu. The Yemina faction had accused Netanyahu of collapsing on the issue of reforming the courts.

Yemina party leaders, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, expressed disapproval with the way negotiations were going. Bennett went so far as to suggest his party would sit in the opposition.

On Saturday evening Shaked, who had been instrumental in placing more conservative judges on the High Court, said “Handing over the Justice Ministry to the Left doesn’t just mean stopping the revolution but going backwards, to the days when the judges would appoint themselves.”

Supreme Court activism has been a bugbear of Israel’s Right, which has insisted that the court has arrogated too much power to itself. The Right has also accused the court of leaning Left.

With the collapse of talks, it’s unlikely a government will be formed before the end of the Passover holiday. Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White, has already told President Reuven Rivlin that he might ask for a 14-day extension to his mandate to form a government.