Tel Aviv, Nov 20: Israel Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose mandate ends on Wednesday midnight, failed to put their differences aside and agree a unity government at a last-ditch meeting in Jerusalem, media reported.
“We cannot give up [our] basic principles and values,” Gantz said according to The Times of Israel newspaper, in a statement following the meeting which took place on Tuesday.
Gantz added that he would “continue to make every effort and turn every stone to try to reach understandings and form a government even in the remaining time, in order to prevent costly and unnecessary elections that are contrary to the will of the citizens of Israel.”
The main point of contention became Gantz's insistence on including parliamentary bloc Joint List, made up of Arab members of parliament, into the coalition, according to the Haaretz publication. Right-wing nationalist Netanyahu is categorically opposed to sharing power with Arab-Israeli politicians.
It now falls upon former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the third largest party Yisrael Beitenu, to pick sides. Having found himself in the position of kingmaker, Lieberman will announce his stance at a party meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
After the first Knesset elections in April, Netanyahu had the opportunity to form a new government coalition, with the support of the largest number of elected deputies (55). However, for the 28 days allotted to him by law, he failed to assemble a coalition of a parliamentary majority of 61 seats.
A second election in September saw Gantz pull slightly ahead, but his party was still short of a majority. In the event that Ganz’s efforts are also unsuccessful, the right to form a government can be granted to any deputy who can unite 61 parliamentarians in one coalition. Otherwise, Israel may head to a third election in less than a year. (UNI)