Coalition negotiations gather momentum

Benjamion Netanyahu and Benny Gantz

Likud  and Blue & White are reportedly close to agreement on an emergency government, but not everyone is happy.

Dan Zaken The negotiations between Likud and Blue & White for the formation of an emergency government continue, and are gaining momentum. It appears that a tiny virus will be the catalyst or glue needed by Israeli politics, at least temporarily.

In last December's political despair, when it was learned that the chance of a unity government had been eliminated, the prevailing view among political commentators was that only a disaster or some extraordinary event could break the political logjam. We thought it might be a war in the south or the north, but the solution eventually came from the east.

Progress in the negotiations is occurring despite media and legal brawling by the parties over the failure to convene the Knesset committees because of disputes about their composition. The talks are taking place on two parallel and complementary tracks. One is the official negotiations led by President Reuven Rivlin between Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin and Minister of Tourism and Minister of Aliyah and Integration Yariv Levin on behalf of Likud, and Blue and White representatives Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Shlomo.

The second track, for solving the difficult problems, involves Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri and MK Gabi Ashkenazi. The two men are close and friendly, which led to the preparation of the earlier agreement in November, an agreement torpedoed by MK Yair Lapid (Blue & White) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They met several times before Deri went into isolation, and contacts are now continuing by telephone.

What about Moshe Ya'alon and Lapid?

According to sources involved in the negotiations, understandings have been reached on the main issues, although there are still several material disputes. Among other things, it was agreed that the first stage, which would be described as an emergency government headed by Netanyahu, would continue for three-to-six months. The two blocs will have equal representation in the government, with each side having a veto, and with a mechanism for solving important disputes. At this emergency government stage, there will be no attempts to defeat the government, and the prime minister will not fire any of the center-left bloc's ministers. Gantz will be minister of foreign affairs, Netanyahu's deputy, and next in line to replace him, a status that will be defined precisely towards the stage of forming a regular government on the basis of the incapacity model. Ashkenazi will be minister of defense, and the Likud will continue holding the Ministry of Finance.

What will happen to MK Moshe Ya'alon (Blue & White) and Lapid? That is still unclear. Ya'alon, Netanyahu's greatest opponent in Blue & White, opposes any agreement. Lapid, if he agrees to enter the government, will of course receive a senior ministry, and perhaps also the status of deputy prime minister.

The regular government stage is to be based on the incapacity model. Netanyahu will be prime minister on paper at the beginning, but will be declared incapacitated because of his trial, and Gantz will take his place, with full authority. There are at least two versions of the timetable. The most realistic is Netanyahu for a year, minus the period of the emergency government, Gantz for two years, and Netanyahu for a year after that. Blue and White asked for guarantees that Netanyahu would observe the agreement, which is one of its most important demands, given its distrust of the prime minister.

Rivlin is closely following the negotiations, and spoke today with Blue & White, and with Levin. According to a statement from the President's House, Rivlin was informed of the state of the negotiations, and heard about the difficulties of principle on the agenda.

"The president implored the parties to continue talking as much as possible in order to reach agreement, and emphasized that he was at their disposal if he could help to further the dialogue. The president also warned against a situation in which the Knesset becomes a hostage of the coalition negotiations, and asked the two sides to convene it immediately, regardless of the state of the talks between them," the statement read.

What is preventing agreement? The dispute within Blue & White. This dispute was evident today in the various critical statements by Blue & White's leaders concerning Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the delay in forming the Knesset committees, and especially the lack of oversight of the emergency measures, including the possibility of digital surveillance by the Israel Security Agency and Israel Police.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 19, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Benjamion Netanyahu and Benny Gantz
Benjamion Netanyahu and Benny Gantz
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