Unity talks revive in last-ditch effort between Netanyahu, Gantz, but no deal before holiday

Netanyahu and Gantz announced “significant progress” after a late Monday meeting. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Chances for a unity government were revived on Tuesday morning after fading last week as negotiations collapsed. Significant progress had been reported after a Monday night meeting between Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, on Tuesday afternoon the sides said that they had not reached a deal and would continue their work on Wednesday evening following the last day of Passover.

Hopes for a unity agreement were raised when the two sides issued a statement at around 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, saying, “Last night’s meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz made significant progress in contacts for a national emergency government. The parties have arranged to meet again tomorrow morning in the presence of the negotiating teams.”

The Monday meeting took place following a televised plea by Gantz carried on all major Israeli news channels in which he called on the prime minister to form a unity government “immediately.”

Gantz also defended his decision to break his campaign pledge never to enter a government with Netanyahu due to the corruption charges he faces, citing the emergency situation brought on by the pandemic as the reason. At the same time, he attacked Netanyahu for the demands the latter was making in the negotiations.

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The last-ditch effort to form a government came as Gantz’s mandate to do so was to expire at midnight. Both Gantz and Netanyahu requested from President Reuven Rivlin to extend the mandate given their progress. Rivlin agreed to an extension until Wednesday midnight.

There are two remaining sticking points in the negotiations, according to reports, both connected to the Supreme Court. The Likud had wanted input into the selection of High Court judges, part of its ongoing effort to reform the court. The Likud has reportedly retreated on the issue.

The second matter concerns Netanyahu’s fear that the Supreme Court will push him out the moment he signs an agreement with Gantz.

The High Court has thrice rejected an anti-Netanyahu petition calling for it to block anyone facing indictment from serving as prime minister, most recently on Sunday. However, each time it left open the possibility it would be willing hear such a petition in the future, citing as the reason for its rejection that the petition was premature.

Netanyahu has requested in the negotiations that an override clause be included in any unity contract that would prevent the High Court from ousting him. According to reports, a compromise was reached on the matter that was sufficient to allay the prime minister’s concerns.

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Israel has held an unprecedented three elections in a year’s time. Both sides say they want to avoid a fourth.