Likud, Blue and White race for Knesset signatures in last-gasp bid to form government

Rivlin’s request and Liberman’s promise of support sent both parties racing for signatures. 

By World Israel News Staff

The Likud and Blue and White parties entered a race to gather Knesset member signatures on Sunday after President Reuven Rivlin said he would give a 14-day extension to whomever could reach 61 Knesset seats, the minimum majority to form a government.

Israel Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman said he would give his party’s support (8 seats) to both Likud and Blue and White.

If Liberman did give his backing to either party, it would give them enough to form a government, although Blue and White would likely still need the support of the Arab parties.

But it looks like the going will be tough, or at least premature, for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party as well, which circulated a letter of support to the 55 right-wing and religious members of the bloc he formed to improve his negotiating position immediately after the September 17 elections.

Several members of the bloc have refused to sign, partly out of distrust of Liberman.

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home party said he wouldn’t sign the petition until the conclusion of the current 21-day period, which ends December 11.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of the New Right party also said they wouldn’t sign until it was clear there would be 61.

Aryeh Deri, leader of the religious Shas party, at first said he wouldn’t sign but then changed his mind.

“Liberman’s signature story is fake and a deception. Nevertheless, I have now instructed MK Yoav Ben Tzur to have the Shas MKs sign and pass them on to me,” Deri tweeted.

Earlier he had tweeted, “Liberman’s signature story is a fake, phony, another attempt to mock the political system. Playing Liberman’s game is completely unnecessary. He will not join the right-wing bloc, he is more likely to support the left-wing Arab government.”