Israeli Political Parties Take Unexpected Positions in First Day of Post-Election Consultations With President Rivlin
A number of dramatic developments emerged on Sunday as Israeli political parties met with President Reuven Rivlin to make their recommendations as to who should be called on to form a new government in the wake of the country’s general elections last Tuesday.
The majority of the Arab-dominated Joint List party chose to recommend Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. The Yisrael Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman recommended no one. Rumors circulated that Blue and White wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be given the first chance to form a governing coalition.
The September 17 elections, the second this year, resulted in a stalemate in which neither Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s Likud received enough Knesset seats to form a government. Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman has refused to commit to either side, thus holding the ability to prevent the larger right-wing bloc from forming a government.
The decision by the Joint List was historic, as it is only the second time an Arab party has recommended a candidate from a Zionist party, the first time being Yitzhak Rabin in 1992.
Firebrand Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi said of the move, “We’ll make history today: We’ll do what needs to be done to bring down Netanyahu.”
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said the Arab public was a vital factor in recent elections, motivated by what he called right-wing incitement against them.
“Our voters have arrived,” said Odeh, “and they wanted to do everything in order to replace Netanyahu.”
“We want to live in a place that has real equality and justice,” he added. “Most of the Israeli public has said its piece — no to the rule of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
“We don’t usually recommend,” Odeh said, “but there is a historical aspect here — we want to end the Netanyahu era.”
Lieberman explained his decision not to recommend anyone by criticizing both Blue and White and Likud, the former because of the recommendation of the Joint List and the latter because of their alliance with the Haredi parties. Lieberman rejects collaboration with either of these groups.
Lieberman has consistently said that he will only support a Likud-Blue and White unity government.
Referring to Netanyahu and Gantz, Lieberman said, “Right now, if you want to get out of this political crisis, you have to sit down with the two people as quickly as possible.”
“I hope that with the president’s leadership, a solution can be reached very quickly,” he added.
Lieberman added that he had no preference as to who will be prime minister in any rotation agreement between Blue and White and Likud, saying, “It’s not my business.”
However, he said, Israel should not be dragged into a third round of elections “just because of who will be first and second.”
At the same time, it has been reported that Blue and White will tell President Rivlin that Netanyahu should be given the first chance to form a coalition.
The reason appears to be a political calculation that Netanyahu will be unable to put together a government, which, combined with Netanyahu’s hearing on corruption charges scheduled for next month, may motivate the Likud to replace him as leader, making a unity government without Netanyahu possible.
However, Netanyahu may actually want Gantz to get the first opportunity, since a failure on his part would put more pressure on him to join a Netanyahu-led unity government.