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Israel’s Gantz Discusses Coalition with Joint List Leaders, Liberman

The head of Israel’s centrist Blue and White political alliance, Benny Gantz, called the leaders of three of the four parties that comprise the Arab-majority Joint List on Monday, and conveyed his intention to establish a government that serves all the country’s citizens – both Jewish and Arab. Gantz spoke to Ayman Odeh of the Joint List’s secular, socialist Hadash party; Ahmad Tibi of the secular nationalist Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal) party; and Mansour Abbas of the United Arab List, which includes both Islamist and Arab nationalist factions. Gantz pointedly avoided contacting Mtanes Shehadah, the head of the fourth Joint List party, Balad, which is considered the most stridently Palestinian nationalist component of the Joint List. MK Heba Yazbak said Monday that she and her two Balad colleagues oppose recommending to Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, that Gantz form the next government. Rivlin must consult with all party heads and hear their recommendations before appointing a parliamentarian to try to form a government that can win majority support in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Rivlin is expected to announce his decision next Monday or Tuesday. Gantz also met on Monday with the head of the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, Avigdor Liberman, who said he would oppose the formation of a narrow right-wing government under the current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. Liberman has until now insisted that he would only support a unity government including both Blue and White and Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party. But after the third election in less than a year and little hope of forming a unity government, Liberman now appears open to the idea of a minority government, headed by Gantz and including Yisrael Beitenu and the center-left Labor-Gesher-Meretz list. Such a government would require the support of the Joint List, as well, though it is assumed that the alliance of Arab-parties would remain officially outside of the ruling coalition. “The worst option,” Liberman told reporters after his meeting with Gantz, “is a fourth election.”