UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Negotiators from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, met on Tuesday to negotiate the possibility of forming a unity government they believe is worthy to head.
Netanyahu’s Likud party is negotiating with the party of Beni Gantz’s centrist Alcoholic Levan party to follow up a meeting between their leaders and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin late Monday.
Netanyahu’s meeting with Gantz was their first formal meeting since the September 17 elections, which resulted in Gantz winning the most seats.
But with no clear way for each to form a coalition government on its own. The two men are scheduled to meet again with President Rivlin on Wednesday evening.
President Rivlin, who must choose who will form the next government, relied heavily on the two parties to form a coalition and urged them on Monday night to find a way to do so.
“The responsibility for forming a government lies with you,” he said.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz say they want a unity government, but they disagree on who will lead it first, in putting forward a rotation arrangement, and other details about the formation of such a coalition.
But who will be prime minister first is a major stumbling block. The timing is particularly important for Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges in the coming weeks and will appear at a hearing in early October.
The prime minister is not legally obliged to step down if charged, but only if convicted and exhausted. Other ministers can be forced to do so when charged.
“The public has chosen to change and we have no intention to give up our leadership, our principles or our natural partners to this path,” he said in a statement late on Monday.
– “What I promised” –
Netanyahu spoke of the fact that he enjoyed greater support from smaller parties in parliament and vowed not to abandon them in a coalition deal.
During Rivlin’s parliamentary consultations, Netanyahu received 55 recommendations against 54 for Gantz
“I am committed to what I promised you,” he said after a meeting late Monday, addressing right-wing and religious parties allied with Likud.
The “Blue White” party led by Gantz in the first place with 33 seats, while the right-wing Likud party won 31 seats out of 120 in parliament. This is the second election since April.
But both sides remain incapable of forming a government.
Rivlin pledged that he would do everything in his power to avoid holding other elections that might be awaiting Israelis next spring.
“People are waiting for you to find a solution,” Rivlin said, “although you will pay the price personally or ideologically.”
Gantz, a former army chief of staff who has no political experience in Netanyahu’s face, will face a seasoned foe and fierce negotiator who served as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister for more than 13 years and repeatedly beat his rivals.
Rivlin is expected to announce the nominee for the task of forming an Israeli government on Wednesday, when he will be handed the final official election results.
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