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  • Gantz met Liberman and spoke with leaders of Arab Joint List in a bid to form a coalition able to oust Netanyahu from power.

    Gantz met Liberman and spoke with leaders of Arab Joint List in a bid to form a coalition able to oust Netanyahu from power. | Photo: EFE

Published 9 March 2020
Opinion

Gantz and Lieberman share one essential goal: forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of office.

Israel’s Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz said Monday that he held talks with the Arab-led Joint List coalition to form a new government and prevent a fourth election.

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Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh spoke on the importance of joint cooperation. “We stick to our goal of replacing Netanyahu's legacy, and it starts by respecting the united voice of the Arab public and our Jewish partners,” Odeh tweeted after the meeting.

Before convening with leaders of the Joint List, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival also met with the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, dubbed since last year the 'kingmaker' as his party's seven seats could end up deciding the next prime minister. 

Praising the encounter as productive and warning that details will be released later, the leader of the Blue and White party said the two spoke about their “fundamental principles” adding that "we can cooperate on them in order to build a government, lift Israel out of the mud it's stuck in, and avoid a fourth round of elections."

For his part, Lieberman said among all the scenarios ahead, the worst would be a fourth election. After Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin mandates a candidate with the formation of a government, it will, therefore, be possible to advance in the negotiations he added.

Gantz and Lieberman share one essential goal: forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of office. It is unclear though if Lieberman will accept a government that has the support of the Joint List or whether he will seek to form a unity government once Netanyahu has been removed.

The leader of Yisrael Beiteinu’s position is unclear and even his colleagues in the party don’t know with certainty what his intentions are. So far, he has not denied that his efforts to halt Netanyahu’s administration come from a personal desire for revenge.

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Gantz’s talks with smaller parties mark a step towards unifying those anti-Netanyahu forces and inflict another delay to the Prime Minister’s desperate efforts to stay in office before his trial on corruption charges starts on March 17.

In the March 2 elections, the third in less than a year, Netanyahu’s Likud (36 seats) came out as the largest party but with the support of religious and nationalist allies, secured only 58 seats in the parliament, three seats short of the 61 required needed to obtain a majority and form a government. 

The premier’s opponents control a majority of seats but apart from their common dislike of Netanyahu, deep divisions separate them, especially Lieberman’s secular and ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, and the Arab majority Joint List.

It remains thus unclear if these forces will be able to reach a final agreement. Lieberman has in the past labeled Arab political leaders in Israel as “terrorist” sympathizers.

"We'll continue to discuss the details, formulate our common objectives, and move forward," Gantz said Monday.

Netanyahu for his part insisted he won last week's election and accused the opposition of trying to "steal the elections" by teaming up with Arab parties he claimed were hostile to the state.

"I promise you, I am not going anywhere," Netanyahu said over the weekend.

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