Zero chance of avoiding third Knesset election

Last-ditch efforts were still in progress to cobble together a narrow-based government coalition.

By World Israel News Staff

The two largest factions in the Knesset – Likud and Blue and White – are in agreement about one thing: if Israelis are forced to go to the polls for a third time within a year, it will happen on March 2.

As for ways to avoid such an election, the sides seem far apart. Asked on Kan public radio on Tuesday whether there was any chance of preventing another nationwide ballot, after the first two ballots in April and September, the public broadcaster’s veteran political correspondent, Yoav Krakowski, replied flatly: “No.”

The deadline for trying to find a resolution is midnight on Wednesday.

Likud is headed by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s chairman is MK Benny Gantz. Neither side has a majority to form a government coalition on its own, as it stands currently.

Nevertheless, even as efforts seemed to have crumbled in forming a broad-based government of Likud and Blue and White comprising 65 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament, last-ditch efforts were still in progress to cobble together a narrow-based government coalition.

A key figure in those talks was MK Avigdor Liberman, a former defense minister, who is head of the Israel Beiteinu party.

A narrow-based coalition would include the Likud and smaller right-wing and religious parties, a constellation which Liberman shows no indication of joining. If such a governing alliance could be achieved, it would mean a governing majority of 63 MKs. However, Liberman said on Tuesday that “A narrow government is a woeful one.”

A point of contention in the national unity talks has been the issue of who would hold the position of prime minister during that government’s term, in particular in light of indictments facing Netanyhau in three cases of alleged corruption.

Blue and White’s latest position is that Netanyahu must forego parliamentary immunity and allow the corruption trials to begin. The prime minister has accused Blue and White of finding excuses to avoid the formation of a unity government. The Likud has been demanding that Netanyahu hold the premiership first.

It has also charged that Gantz hardened his position under the influence of Blue and White’s number two on its Knesset list, MK Yair Lapid, because, says the Likud, Lapid wants to be part of a rotation with Gantz as prime minister as agreed upon within Blue and White.

On Monday, Lapid reiterated that such an arrangement between the two was not an issue. On Tuesday, he formally announced he was cancelling the previously agreed-upon rotation agreement with Gantz for the country’s top spot.