Coalition talks implode, Gantz pushes anti-Netanyahu bills forward

Gantz left the Prime Minister’s residence and announced he would move forward with bills designed to prevent Netanyahu from serving as premier.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz met at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Monday morning in hopes of sealing the deal on a unity government. An hour-and-a-half later those talks imploded and Gantz left the building.

The impasse is reportedly over the Judicial Selections Committee. The Likud wants more say in the appointment of judges.

Netanyahu is also concerned about the Supreme Court overruling his ability to serve as prime minister. He has sought a way to insert a mechanism into the unity deal to ensure this doesn’t happen.

The High Court has rejected a petition brought before it three times now asking it to reject Netanyahu as  prime minister on the grounds that he is facing indictment. However, the court has left open the possibility it will hear such a petition in the future.

After the talks broke down, Gantz confirmed on Monday morning that he would, as speaker of the Knesset, allow 170 bills to move forward in parliament, among them a handful targeting Netanyahu.

The Likud has warned that if Gantz went ahead with the bills it would mean the end of negotiations.

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There are at least three pieces of anti-Netanyahu legislation that have been put forward by Blue and White and five proposed by the Israel Beiteinu party. Most would prevent in one way or another a Knesset member from serving under indictment. Netanyahu faces indictment in three corruption cases.

The bills are generally viewed as leverage to pressure Netanyahu to come to a deal. Blue and White has pointed the finger at the prime minister as the main stumbling block, saying on Monday, “If Netanyahu wanted it would be possible to close a deal in a half hour.”

Somewhat surprisingly, given his antagonism toward Netanyahu, Telem leader Moshe Ya’alon said he wouldn’t support the bills.

“These laws are too important to be used as a political game,” Ya’alon tweeted at Gantz. “The only way is for you to stop negotiating with Netanyahu. You can’t use our votes to join an immunity and corruption government.”

Ya’alon had until recently been political partners with Gantz until the latter broke in order to join a unity government with Netanyahu, despite repeated campaign promises he wouldn’t do so.

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party, urged Gantz on Sunday to drop coalition talks, arguing that Netanyahu was just looking to buy time.

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“Benny Gantz, this is your moment of truth. As someone who knows Netanyahu better than anyone, I estimate that he won’t sign a coalition deal with you, not today, not tomorrow,” Liberman wrote.

It is possible that Netanyahu wants a fourth election given the Likud’s strong showing in recent polls where it’s pulling 40 Knesset seats. It currently has 36. It’s also possible that Netanyahu may hope for a government without Gantz, given that he is only two seats away from a 61-seat majority after Orly Levi-Abekasis defected to the right side of the political aisle.