Likud and Blue & White meet on forming new government

Aside from ideological differences, the two sides confirmed they were working on technical stumbling blocks.

By World Israel News Staff 

Negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White faction, headed by MK Benny Gantz, were taking place on Friday in the wake of President Reuven Rivlin’s nod earlier this week to Netanyahu to try to form a new governing majority in parliament following the September 17 election.

In consultations held by Rivlin, a slightly larger number of MKs in the new parliament recommended Netanyahu for prime minister than the number supporting Gantz. However, Netanyahu did not receive majority backing.

Therefore, the effort to form a unity government of the Likud joined by Blue and White has been at the center of the political agenda. Blue and White earned 33 seats, one more than the Likud’s 32 mandates, in the 120-member parliament in the divisive results.

Instead of needing the support of a number of smaller factions to garner a parliamentary majority, the Likud would already have a coalition of more than half of parliament with Blue and White alone.

Perhaps hinting of a tense atmosphere, however, members of the Blue and White team entered Friday’s negotiation without speaking first to reporters.

“We believe that Israel needs a stable government without delay,” said Tourism Minister Yair Levin, the head of the Likud negotiating team.

“The election results require the establishment of a broad-based unity government,” he said.

Friday’s meeting concluded without any breakthrough. The session was said to have lasted some four hours.

Aside from ideological differences between the Likud and Blue and White, the two sides confirmed that they were working on technical stumbling blocks.

Blue and White has stated that it would refuse to sit in a government led by Netanyahu if the prime minister is facing a criminal indictment. A hearing is scheduled for October to determine whether Netanyahu will, in fact, face indictments in three cases of alleged corruption.

Levin says that the Likud is willing to work on the basis of an outline presented by Rivlin that, through legislation, would allow Netanyahu to remain as prime minister if he is indicted – but as incapacitated to allow him to fight his legal battle – with Gantz taking on the position as acting prime minister during this period of time.

Another technical point of contention has been the Likud’s insistence that its traditional right-wing and religious partners from other parties must also be included in the government.

Blue and White counters that such an approach gives the Likud an unfair numerical and ideological advantage in negotiations instead of even-handed talks between the two largest factions in parliament toward agreeing on a centrist agenda serving a cross-section of Israeli society.