Netanyahu, center-left parties deny reports of unity coalition talks

Netanyahu reportedly in talks with Gantz and Lapid for possible unity government, after US signals its disapproval of rightist coalition. Likud, Yesh Atid, and National Unity parties all deny the report.

By World Israel News Staff

Opposition leader and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has opened up a channel to Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel’s Hebrew daily Ma’ariv reported Wednesday.

As coalition talks reached an impasse, the Likud announced it has cancelled planned meetings with negotiating teams from the Religious Zionism Party and United Torah Judaism after Netanyahu failed to reach a breakthrough with Religious Zionist Party chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich Tuesday evening.

While Smotrich has demanded either the Defense or Finance Ministry portfolios in exchange for his party’s support of Netanyahu as prime minister, Netanyahu urged the Religious Zionism chairman to accept another position, noting that Shas chief Aryeh Deri has already requested the Finance Ministry and citing pressure both in Israel and abroad.

According to Wednesday’s report, Netanyahu has opened an alternate track of negotiations, with members of his inner circle engaged in talks with officials representing Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Gantz in the hopes of winning their support for a national unity government.

Aside from sidestepping the impasse with Smotrich, the move would placate the Biden administration, which has reportedly been applying pressure to Netanyahu not to form a narrow rightist government.

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The Ma’ariv report claimed that the Biden administration has been pressing Lapid and Gantz to drop their opposition to a national unity government with Netanyahu, warning that a narrow right-wing government could harm Israel’s standing internationally.

The Likud, Yesh Atid and National Unity parties all denied the report.

A spokesperson for the Likud called the claim “spin” and “fake news,” implying that Smotrich was behind the report.

“Those that are investing so much in spreading fake news should rather invest those efforts in forming a fully right-wing government, immediately,” the Likud said.

A Yesh Atid spokesperson said the Ma’ariv report was based on “unfounded rumors,” spread by the Likud to pressure the Religious Zionist Party.

“We will not conduct any negotiations with them and Yesh Atid will not sit in a government headed by someone accused of serious crimes,” the spokesperson said.