Netanyahu seeks to scupper Gantz after his own failure to form coalition
Analysis: Likud officials consider the possibility of a minority government led by the Blue and White leader a nightmare scenario aimed only at removing the prime minister from office and not establishing a solid long-term coalition
Having failed to form a coalition for the second time in six months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now emabrking on a public campaign against the Blue and White party, claiming its leader Benny Gantz will try to form a minority government that would endanger Israel due to support from the Arab parties.
President Reuven Rivlin will task Gantz with forming a new government in an official ceremony expected no later than Thursday. Gantz will then have 28 days to form a coalition as stipulated by the law.
The September election results failed to give either Likud or Blue and White a clear path to a Knesset majority
Likud officials consider the possibility of a minority government led by the former IDF chief to be a nightmare scenario aimed only at removing the prime minister from office and not meant to form a stable, long-term coalition.
Netanyahu, who is facing possible indictments in three corruption cases, is better served fighting his legal battles from the Prime Minister's Office. As prime minister he does not have to resign from office until all legal proceedings against him are decided.
The decision by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman whether to support a minority government will be the determining factor, and the former Netanyahu ally has yet to make his position known.
Netanyahu intends to launch a public campaign against a minority government that would have parliamentary support from the Joint List of Arab parties.
This campaign would also most likely strengthen ties to his right-wing and religious political partners, who may be tempted to break away to join Gantz.
Netanyahu, in the meantime, has blamed Gantz for refusing to enter into negotiations on forming a unity government.
In a video message posted on social media, the prime minister claimed Gantz had succumbed to pressure from Liberman, who strongly opposes a unity government led by right-wing and religious partners. Netanyahu said Liberman's party was only interested in causing divisions while boycotting members of the Israeli public.
"How will a government supported by the Join List that defends terrorists be able to fight terror, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran?" Netanyahu said, setting the tone for his campaign meant to prevent Gantz from forming his government.
"If Gantz is tempted to form such a dangerous government, I will head the opposition against it and work hard to bring it down" the premier said, "It is not too late to shake off the advice of Liberman and Lapid (Yair Lapid, second at the helm of the Blue and White Party) and form a unity government made up of all those who believe in Israel as a Jewish state and a democratic state".
The Blue and White party intends to call on all Knesset faction leaders including those from Netanyahu's rightwing bloc, to hold talks on possible coalition agreements.
Officials in the party say the first call will be to Likud to ask them to join a national unity government that will include leaders of both major parties sharing the premiership, with Ganz being first to assume the role.
In reaction to Netanyahu's social media post, Blue and White's statement said: The time for spins in over. It is time for action".
Blue and White officials added that they were adamant about forming a liberal unity government.
Benny Gantz has spent the past couple of days in the Gaza border area where he participated in the 66 year anniversary of the founding of Kibbutz Nachal Oz