After completing meetings with party representatives to hear their recommendations as to who should form the next government, and with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz receiving majority support in the new Knesset, President Reuven Rivlin on Monday issued an invitation for a meeting between the two in an attempt to move forward in the coalition-building process.
Netanyahu and Gantz both confirmed that they would attend the meeting, called for Monday evening.
Shortly after Rivlin’s appeal, Netanyahu, speaking at a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, said that “the only government that can be formed is a broad unity government” between his Likud and the centrist Blue and White.
Netanyahu, who received 55 MK recommendations to Gantz’s 54, made his own plea for Gantz to agree to a meeting “to achieve unity and compromise between the national camp headed by me… and the left-wing camp headed by Gantz.”
Gantz has so far rejected an invitation to meet with the prime minster “with no preconditions,” a call Netanyahu made immediately after signing an agreement according to which his Likud party and all the parties on the religious right agreed to only enter a coalition as a single unit and negotiate the terms of the new government together.
Netanyahu urged Gantz to form a national unity government under his leadership that includes all members of his religious right-wing bloc. The Blue and White leader rebuffed the offer, noting his party received more seats and should therefore lead such a coalition.
Gantz has insisted that Netanyahu, who is facing a looming criminal indictment, relinquish the premiership as a condition for a Blue and White-Likud alliance. Blue and White has also vowed to form a government without the ultra-Orthodox and “extremists.”
“A few days before Rosh Hashanah, I wish you all, all of the people Israel, a happy New Year. A year of security, prosperity and unity. Why unity? Because that is the order of the hour. This is also the clear order the public has given in this election,” Netanyahu said Monday.
“Let’s put things of the table: We wanted to form a right-wing government. Unfortunately, this was not possible because we were not given enough seats to do so. Gantz wanted to form a government from the other side. He did not receive enough seats to do so either. Therefore, the only government that can be formed is a broad unity government between us. The only way to reach such a government is to sit down and talk,” he continued.
“If we speak with an open mind and heart, we can form a good and broad government for Israel. This is what the people expect of us,” Netanyahu insisted.
As it stands, neither Likud nor Blue and White has a path to a coalition without the other. In last Tuesday’s election, Blue and White emerged as the larger party, according to almost-final results, at 33 seats, while Likud won 31. Netanyahu heads a right-wing and ultra-Orthodox bloc of 55 MKs. Gantz heads a bloc of 44 centrist and left-wing MKs, along with 10 lawmakers from the predominantly Arab Joint List who in a rare move recommended him as prime minister on Sunday.