Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday repeated his call for Blue & White to join a unity government headed by him for a period of six months in order to deal with "the national and global state of emergency" caused by coronavirus.
Blue & White leader Benny Gantz said in response that Netanyahu's offer was a ploy by the prime minister, who is facing charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His trial was set to begin on March 17 but has been delayed until May due to the restrictions on public gatherings to counter the coronavirus.
Netanyahu issued the call for unity as President Reuven Rivlin began consultations with party representatives on the formation of the next government in the wake of the March 2 elections.
The president, who has repeatedly called for a unity government as a way to end the political deadlock, said Sunday: "I ask of all party representatives who come here to do so in the understanding that we must now deal with forming a government as soon as possible, that we lead our people at this complex time. It may be that forming a government demands interim arrangements for the coming months. I have no doubt that this is what the people expects of its leaders at this time."
Netanyahu made a similar case, saying the country needed stability and a functioning political system.
"We must unite forces and establish a strong and stable government that can pass a budget and make tough decisions," Netanyahu said.
"The government will serve for six months and the ministerial positions will be split evenly. The prime minister will not be able to fire ministers from Blue & White, and Blue& White will not be able to express no confidence in the prime minister. At the end of this period, we will return to the current situation."
Netanyahu's Likud party and Blue & White received the highest number of Knesset seats on March 2, with 36 and 33 MKs respectively. Neither party has enough seats in their political blocs to form a stable government, an ongoing stalemate that has led to three elections since April 2019.
The prime minister added that he "would also like to discuss the establishment of a national unity government with a rotation [for prime minister] with parity in duration and composition."
"In this unity government, I will continue to serve as prime minister for the next two years, and during this time Benny Gantz will serve as deputy prime minister with the same division of ministers and the same rules for the government," he said.
"After two years, Gantz will take up the post of prime minister and the government will serve four years in total."
Netanyahu added: "I call on Benny Gantz to meet with me and simultaneously hold a meeting between the [parties'] negotiating teams on forming a government. I call on [Labor leader] Amir Peretz and [Yisrael Betytenu chair] Avigdor Liberman to show responsibility and join any government we form."
Replying to Netanyahu, Gantz wrote on Twitter: "Netanyahu, do not turn your back on the citizens of Israeli. Someone who wants unity does not delay his trial at 1am and does not release the outline for an emergency unity government to the media, but rather sends his negotiating team for a meeting.
Unlike you, I will continue to support every correct move by the government without any political considerations. When you're serious - we'll talk."
Meanwhile, the Blue & White leadership has had sharp disagreements over joining Netanyahu's "emergency government."
While Moshe Ya'alon and Yair Lapid are fiercely opposed, Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi are ready to join.
Blue & White said Sunday morning that although Ashkenazi and Netanyahu had already held talks on Friday morning, there has been no progress on the issue.