Knesset speaker makes last-ditch effort to spare Israelis from another election

“Gantz is frustrated with Lapid,” an MK close to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz reportedly said, referring to number two on the party list Yair Lapid.

By World Israel News Staff 

With under two weeks remaining until Israel’s parliament will automatically disperse unless a new government is formed, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is making a last-ditch effort to get the two largest factions together to form a national unity government.

However, one of those two factions, Blue and White, is seen as divided over how to proceed. Blue and White won 33 seats in the September Knesset election, edging out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, which earned 32 seats in the 120-member parliament.

“Gantz is frustrated with Lapid,” said a Blue and White MK close to the faction leader, MK Benny Gantz, according to Kan public television.

The reported frustration is with MK Yair Lapid, number two on the faction list.

Lapid and MK Moshe Ya’alon, who is ranked third in Blue and White, are adamantly opposed to negotiating with Netanyahu, saying that the faction’s position has been to reject any possibility of joining forces with the Likud led by Netanyahu as long as the incumbent prime minister faces indictment.

Last week, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that Netanyahu would be indicted in connection with three cases of alleged corruption.

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Ya’alon tweeted on Wednesday that “we have made clear that we would agree to a rotation on condition that Gantz is first.” a reference to the discussion that Blue and White and the Likud would rotate holding the position of premier in a unity government.

“We will not sit in a government headed by Netanyahu as long as he is not acquitted in court,” Ya’alon continued.

However, Gantz is seen as looking for wiggle room to make a deal that would prevent the country from having to go to a third Knesset election within a year as the formation of a government parliamentary coalition remains elusive.

The Likud has been proposing that Netanyahu take on the position of prime minister first, though only for a few months before Gantz would take over. That point is crucial for the Likud leader because an Israeli court has ruled in the past that a cabinet minister cannot serve while under indictment. Ironically, no such ruling has been made regarding a prime minister.

Netanyahu has also been facing a challenge within his own party as MK Gideon Sa’ar has called for a Likud primary election for the party chairmanship before the December 11 deadline for forming a new national government.

“This is a true alert,” said Edelstein, employing Hebrew terminology to compare the ongoing political crisis to a red alert of an incoming rocket attack.

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Despite the looming deadline, analysts are saying that for now, the two largest factions have agreed to meet with the parliamentary speaker only out of courtesy and that no progress is evident toward forming a unity government, though some believe that an agreement could be reached during the final days before the potential Knesset dissolution because of what is seen as large-scale public displeasure over the protracted political stalemate.

It was nearly a year ago – late December 2018 – when the Knesset first decided to begin the process of going to an early election with the anticipation of forming a new government.