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April 6, 2020 11:26 am

Coalition Hits Another Roadblock Hours After Netanyahu, Gantz Said to Reach Unity Government Deal

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony for the late Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, Sept. 19, 2019. Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90.

After reports on Monday afternoon that a coalition government agreement had been reached, it was announced this evening that talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party had suddenly collapsed, Israeli news site N12 reported.

The blow-up apparently centered on the issue of Israel’s Judicial Selection Committee, which appoints the country’s judges. The Likud has long wanted to curtail its powers, citing what it regards as long-standing judicial overreach.

Blue and White issued a statement saying, “After reaching an agreement on all the issues, the Likud asked to reopen the issue of the Judicial Selection Committee. After this the negotiations ended. We will not allow any change in the role of the Judicial Selection Committee or harm to democracy.”

Earlier reports stated that the parties had finally reached a deal on forming the next governing coalition. Israel has been without a government since three rounds of inconclusive elections beginning last April. In the interim, Netanyahu has been leading a caretaker government that has limited powers.

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On March 29, Gantz announced that, in light of the coronavirus crisis, he was breaking up Blue and White’s united list with the Yesh Atid and Telem factions and would enter a unity government with Netanyahu. Negotiations have been ongoing since then.

According to N12, the deal would have been based on several agreements that overcame the substantial divisions between the two parties:

Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for a year-and-a-half, after which Gantz would take over for another year-and-a-half.

During Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister, Gantz would serve as defense minister and deputy prime minister.

Thirty ministers would serve in the government, equally divided between Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc and Gantz’s center-left bloc. After the coronavirus crisis passes, the government would expand to 34 ministers.

Blue and White would choose whether it will receive the Foreign Ministry or the Education Ministry.

On the issue of annexing parts of the West Bank, perhaps the most important issue dividing the two sides, there would be a “freeze” on the question for two-and-a-half months, after which it would be decided in “consultation” with Gantz and in coordination with the United States, as well as a “dialogue” with the international community — a likely reference to neighboring Arab states.

Gantz has previously expressed opposition to unilateral annexation and said it must be done in coordination with the Arab states, something that is all but impossible. Netanyahu reportedly badly wants annexation in order to secure his legacy.

In another major development, N12 reported Monday that the venerable left-wing Labor party was in talks with Blue and White for a possible merger of the two lists.

An official statement by the parties announced the talks, saying the parties would coordinate in the Knesset and run together in future election campaigns.

A Labor source said, “This is the rebirth of the Labor Party and its return to its natural place in Israeli society.”

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