Netanyahu waiting for Liberman to say he won’t join with Arab parties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, front, and MK Avigdor Liberman in the Knesset (AP /Sebastian Scheiner)

Liberman, holding eight seats, has the power to either give Netanyahu a majority or help Gantz improve his chances of forming a government.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waiting for an announcement by Israel Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman that he would refuse to join a coalition with a left-wing government that relies on non-Zionist predominantly Arab parties, a representative of Netanyahu’s Likud party told Kan public radio on Tuesday.

According to the Likud representative, the incumbent premier wants such an announcement before he would be willing to return the mandate that he was granted on September 25 by President Reuven Rivlin to put together a new parliamentary majority on the heels of the September 17 Knesset election.

Liberman, with his eight seats, holds the power to either give Netanyahu a majority or alternately help Gantz improve his chances of forming a government.

Under Israeli law, Netanyahu has until October 28 to form a coalition with other factions. The Likud has 32 seats in the 120-member parliament voted in by the Israeli public last month.

If Netanyahu cannot cobble together a coalition during the initial period allotted to him, Rivlin would have the option to either extend the incumbent premier’s mandate for two more weeks or give Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz the task instead.

Blue and White actually earned one more seat, 33, than the Likud in the election, but fewer MKs overall approve of him as the next prime minister than those supporting Netanyahu.

Because of the divided composition of parliament, pressure has been mounted on the Likud and Blue and White to form a unity government. The president renewed the call on Tuesday, saying that it was the “will of the people.”

Otherwise, a Likud-led government would be comprised of right-wing and religious parties, though without Liberman’s faction, it would still be short of a majority. For its part, Blue and White would need the support of the Joint List of the non-Zionist MKs as well as Israel Beytenu to climb to a Knesset majority.

If Gantz is given a mandate but he, too, is unsuccessful, Rivlin would have to decide to either tap any other Knesset member to try to form a government or call for yet another parliamentary election, after no coalition could be formed after the April 9 vote and now following the September ballot.

Liberman is advocating for a unity government and refuses to sit in any coalition that includes the religious factions or Arab parties.

Channel 12 News reported on Friday that Rivlin is not expected to grant Netanyahu an extension.

The Israel Hayom daily quoted an official in Rivlin’s office as confirming the report.

“The assumption is that the mandate will be given to Benny Gantz…unless, after the mandate is returned to the president by Netanyahu, another Knesset member will be named by the party leaders during the round of talks that President Rivlin will hold,” the president’s representative said, according to the report.

Aaron Sull: