(JNS) Blue and White and Likud party leaders Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet in the coming days to discuss the possibility of forming a unity government, the parties announced on Wednesday night, Oct. 23. The announcement followed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s official transfer of the mandate to form a government to Gantz. To form a government, a majority of 61 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament is needed – a result its seems unlikely either party can achieve without the assistance of the other.
Netanyahu, who was unable to form a government within the 28-day deadline, said he will be negotiating on behalf of the right-wing and religious bloc and will not enter into a coalition without the 55-member alliance. Gantz, who represents the first person other than Netanyahu to be tasked with building a government in more than a decade, has rejected this position but said earlier in the week that he is optimistic he will be able to form a Blue and White-led coalition within 28 days.
Following the mandate transfer, Gantz began to speak with leaders of the various Knesset parties, including Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, United Torah Judaism’s Ya’akov Litzman and Moshe Gafni, Labor’s Amir Peretz, the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, Jewish Home’s Rafi Peretz, the Democratic Union’s Nitzan Horowitz, Shas chair Aryeh Deri, National Union’s Bezalel Smotrich and the Joint List’s Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and Mansour Abbas.
Lieberman, Peretz, Horowitz, Tibi, Odeh and Abbas all reportedly agreed to meet with Gantz. Odeh, who previously said his party would not join a Gantz government, said “all options are on the table if we see a real alternative for peace and equality.”
Rivlin has encouraged a unity government equally divided between Netanyahu and Gantz, each serving two years as prime minister. If Netanyahu is indicted in any of the three corruption cases he currently faces, he would take a leave of absence and Gantz would become “interim prime minister” during that period.
If Gantz also proves unable to build a government in the 28 days following the beginning of his mandate, there will then be a three-week period in which any Knesset member can attempt to form a government. If no government is formed, a third election will be automatically initiated.