Netanyahu, Gantz meet with Israel’s president to explore path to unity

The leaders of the two biggest parties met to discuss the possibility of a broad unity government.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz met on Sunday evening at the request of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who led the meeting at his official residence in Jerusalem.

The discussion centered around the possibility of establishing an emergency unity government, according to reports.

Earlier on Sunday, Rivlin, who in the role of president is tasked with selecting the candidate most likely to succeed in forming a government, said he has decided to give Gantz the first opportunity after consulting with leaders of all of the parties elected to parliament.

However, pundits have cast doubts on Gantz’s abilities to form a government. Channel 12 journalist Amit Segal on Sunday says the odds that Gantz would succeed were “zero,” noting that two members of Gantz’s own party would oppose a “minority government” — that is, one that would rest on the support of the Arab party, the Joint List.

Segal says that neither of the two parties really wants to go to a fourth election. He said the chances were high that some kind of unity government would emerge.

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Veteran commentator Ben-Dror Yemini, who writes a column for Yediot Ahronot, reached a similar conclusion, noting that the opposition within Gantz’s party to a government that depended in any way on the Joint List would likely torpedo the Blue and White leader’s efforts.

Yemini says Rivlin will knock heads together and insist on a national unity government with the leadership rotating between Netanyahu and Gantz.

Earlier on Sunday, Rivlin met with the various parties in the Knesset to hear whom they wanted to form a government. Sixty-one voiced support for Gantz. Two of them make very strange bedfellows – Israel Beiteinu led by Avigdor Liberman, who has referred to the Joint List as a 5th column and the Joint List itself, whose platform opposes Israel as a uniquely Jewish State.

At the president’s urging, after the meeting the two sides agreed to continue discussions between the Likud and Blue and White negotiating teams, according to a statement from Rivlin’s office.