President Reuven Rivlin has summoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for a meeting on Monday evening as he pressures them to form a unity government, his office says. The president is set to make his decision about who will form the next government by Wednesday.
Rivlin earlier on Monday wrapped up crucial talks on forming new government as he met with the smaller parties elected in last week's vote. Netanyahu's right-wing bloc appears to be leading Gantz's center-left bloc 55 to 54 Knesset seats after the Arab-dominated Joint List said it was withdrawing some of its members' recommendations for the Blue and White leader.
"There is one thing that the people are largely united over and that is the desire that there won't be third elections," Rivlin said.
Netanyahu held a press conference immediately after the consultations were over and it became apparent the prime minister holds a small edge over the former IDF chief."Let's be straight, we wanted to form a right-wing government, but unfortunately it was not possible," said the prime minister. "We didn't get enough seats in order to do that."
The prime minister added the only way out of political deadlock is unity government. "Unity must be achieved without boycotts and disqualifications,” he said. “I’m convinced that if we’ll go into it with an open mind … we’ll be able to form a government that’s united and good for Israeli people.”
Neither party can form a coalition without the eight seats won by firebrand former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who on Sunday declined to endorse either candidate for prime minister. Lieberman has pushed Gantz and Netanyahu to agree to sit with him in a broad, secular unity government, and both have agreed in theory but disagree over who should head it. Gantz has also vowed not to sit with Netanyahu so long as he faces a likely indictment over a number of corruption scandals.
Neither Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud nor Benny Gantz’s Blue and White could muster enough Knesset seats in the September 17 elections to form a clear majority coalition. Blue and White emerged with a slight advantage by winning 33 out of 120 seats, with Likud gaining 31 seats.