Israel’s Gantz Says Started Negotiations on Forming Government
The head of Israel’s centrist Blue and White electoral list, Benny Gantz, has claimed to have started negotiations to form the country’s next government. The former military chief’s political alliance garnered 33 seats in last Monday’s national election, the third in under a year following inconclusive votes in April and September 2019. While Gantz did not divulge details of the purported talks, it is assumed that he is working toward heading a minority government comprised of the center-left Labor-Gesher-Meretz and the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party. The Joint List, a collection of Arab-majority parties, would have to agree to support the coalition, or at least not vote to bring it down, from the outside, looking in. Though together these factions hold 62 seats in the 120-member parliament, such a government would be inherently unstable due to the major policy differences of its prospective members. Gantz has repeatedly vowed not to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, given that the prime minister has been indicted on three separate corruption charges. Netanyahu’s trial on these charges is due to begin on March 17. While his conservative Likud party won three more seats than Blue and White, his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox bloc received 58 seats – three shy of a majority. At an “emergency rally” on Saturday evening, the prime minister reiterated that “I’m not going anywhere,” and accused his main rivals of attempting to “steal the election through deceit and anti-democratic legislation.” The latter reference was to an initiative by Blue and White to pass legislation to prevent an indicted Knesset member from forming a new government and thus becoming prime minister. Netanyahu, in any case, appears to have few, if any viable paths of doing so, although his allies, to date, continue to back him. For the time being, there seems to be no possibility of the emergence of a so-called national unity government between Likud and Blue and White, Israel’s two largest political parties, which share similar overall ideologies.