Likud, Blue and White negotiating teams spar over details of unity government

On Tuesday, Israel’s two biggest parties explored the possibility of forming a unity government.

By World Israel News Staff

On Tuesday in Ramat Gan, a city bordering Tel Aviv,  the negotiating teams of Blue and White and Likud explored the possibility of a unity government, which would include a shared-power arrangement.

It’s not clear yet how serious the negotiations are, or whether it’s an attempt by Blue and White to run out the clock until October 2nd. That’s when pre-indictment corruption hearings against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are set to begin.

According to the two negotiating teams, the Tuesday talks were “businesslike and conducted with good intentions.”

The Likud team is led by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. Blue and White’s team is captained by Yoram Turbowicz, a former aide to past Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

There was some dispute over whether the Likud represented only itself, as Turbowicz maintained, or the entire right-wing camp, as Levin insisted. Immediately after elections, Netanyahu brought together the right-wing parties into a ‘technical bloc’ which he would lead. The bloc includes 55 Knesset seats.

It may be that Blue and White is attempting to split the right-wing bloc, making it easier to entice a few Knesset seats from its opponent.

Israel Hayom reports an official at the meeting said, “In the morning, it was published that the Likud intends to abandon the right-wing parties in its negotiations with Blue and White, and a denial went out. Levin told Blue and White’s people that there was unnecessary confusion created in the media, and it wouldn’t work. The minister clarified to the other side that we’re talking about 55 mandates that won’t be separated, and that Netanyahu stands at the head of them.”

The two sides agreed that a unity government would involve a rotational system for the prime minister’s position. There is disagreement over who will go first – Gantz or Netanyahu. Blue and White says Gantz should be first and Likud says it should be Netanyahu, given Gantz’s limited experience.

The sides appeared to agree that there will be 32 ministerial positions in the new government, split evenly between the sides. Each would receive 16. This would hold even if the Likud side includes the entire right-wing.

Israel Hayom reports on the possibility that Blue and White is not acting in good faith. The paper says it has learned that Blue and White received clear marching orders – to drag out the negotiations until Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearings.

“Sources aware of the details said that, ‘October 2 is the target date that they need to arrive at without closing – these are only initial contacts,'” the paper reports.

The sources also told Israel Hayom that “the urgent meetings of the Likud and Blue and White teams are arranged, among other reasons, in order to present a picture to the public of a genuine desire for unity – which is an interest within Blue and White, but the goal is unity without Netanyahu.”

The Blue and White party, really an alliance of three parties, stressed throughout the election campaign that it would not sit in the same government with Netanyahu, due to his facing several corruption charges.

However, the Likud has remained firm that it would not turn its back on its longtime leader, creating a potential impasse.