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September 26, 2019 3:36 pm

Day After Netanyahu Gets Mandate to Form Government, Gantz Calls for Unity Talks ‘Without Spin and Without Blocs’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party. Photo: Gili Yaari / Flash90 and Noam Revkin Fenton / Flash90.

As Israel’s uncertain political impasse continues, Blue and White party head Benny Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss forming a unity government “without spin and without blocs.”

The Sept. 17 election ended in an impasse, with neither centrist Blue and White nor Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party winning enough seats to form a government. On Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with forming a government, but it is all but impossible for him to do so without Blue and White.

Although he has called for a unity government, Netanyahu has also formed a single 55-seat bloc with his customary right-religious partners and refuses to enter government without them. Blue and White maintains that it will not enter a government with such a bloc or with a prime minister under threat of indictment.

The Israeli news site Walla reported that at a party faction meeting on Thursday, Gantz called on Netanyahu to negotiate “without spin and without blocs. Come build a real unity government.”

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“It was Netanyahu who brought forward the elections for the 21st Knesset, which led us to the elections for the 22nd Knesset, and maybe he is the one with an interest in leading us to another election, which could lead to a fracturing of Israeli society,” Gantz said.

He emphasized that the issues dividing the two parties were essential ones, rather than the specific makeup of a government.

“The portfolios are not a goal in and of themselves,” he said. “They are not the object of our dreams, but rather tools, because Israel comes before everything.”

Gantz also hinted at the possibility of a government with Likud but without Netanyahu, saying, “We are looking for public honesty and we cannot sit with a prime minister under indictment. I call for a conversation on content and essentials with the Likud.”

The Israeli news site Mako reported that, earlier in the day, Ayelet Shaked, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, which is part of Netanyahu’s bloc, hinted at a possible break with the prime minister.

“There is another possibility,” she said, “of a unity government that includes Blue and White, Lieberman, the Haredi parties, and us.”

“A unity government does not have to be with Likud,” she said.

Shaked later claimed to have been misquoted, saying, “These things were not said by me and the article has been removed. We need the bloc of 55 in hopes that a right-wing or unity government will be established.”

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