by: Kate Norman
Friday, 18 October 2019 | As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters the last week before his deadline to form a government coalition, the deadlock in the Knesset (Parliament) appears to be hardening. Last night Netanyahu, leader of the center-right Likud party, presented his political opponent, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, with an outline for a unity government—which Gantz promptly rejected.
The prime minister had also called Gantz to walk through the outline over the phone. The former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff called the plan “impossible not to refuse.”
In videos posted to his social media, Netanyahu declared: “This is the only government that can be formed now, it is the only government that must be formed now.”
His desperate attempts to piece together a unity government or round up enough support to form a coalition, which he failed to do following the last election in April, will likely end in a standstill when the clock runs out next week. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is then expected to pass the baton to Gantz, though the media has often deemed his chances of success smaller than Netanyahu’s.
The unity government proposal covered security, religion—which is ultimately what caused the failure of Netanyahu’s previous attempt to form the last coalition and drove the Jewish state to the latest round of elections—as well as what would be a unified response between Netanyahu and Gantz to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan after its eventual release.
Essentially, the plan would maintain the status quo in the government throughout its first year, especially regarding religious issues such as opening public transportation during Shabbat (Sabbath). It addresses the controversial issue that led to the deadlock last time around: the draft of ultra-Orthodox men into military service. Netanyahu proposes setting a bar for how many would be drafted into service, but that drew criticism in that pending an agreement, the government could set a low bar to appease the right-wing and religious sections of the bloc who back Netanyahu.
“This government will be based on a broad national consensus to enable it to address the pressing security and economic challenges that are rising around us,” the prime minister said. “All parties will need to make some concessions to reach a consensus.”
Netanyahu’s Likud party did not make enough concessions in the proposal, however, based on Blue and White’s response. Gantz made it clear that he will wait out the clock until Netanyahu runs out of time and options.
“We will wait to receive the mandate from the president and start serious negotiations to form a liberal unity government that will usher in change and bring back hope for Israel’s citizens,” Gants said in response to Netanyahu’s proposal.
The Likud party dismissed Gantz as a “serial objector,” given that he has rejected multiple meetings and proposals from the prime minister during his most recent attempt to patch together a functioning government. Gantz and his Blue and White party often dismiss Netanyahu’s proposals as poor attempts to prove he is trying to compromise.
Netanyahu, despite all the pushback, emphasized the critical need to break the political deadlock and move forward in order to avoid another round of elections, which would likely end in a similar outcome.
“The citizens of Israel look around and see how the Middle East is changing for the worse right before our eyes,” the prime minister said. “Those who need to know, know that the security challenges are growing, and they are not waiting for us.
“That is why I call on Gantz to show national responsibility and to enter immediate negotiations with me, to establish the government that the State of Israel so desperately needs. Any unnecessary delay will take us back to the same point in about two months, with all the implications to accompany it.”
If Netanyahu and Gantz both fail, another Knesset member could step into the vacuum by rallying the support of 61 of the 120 members in another attempt to form a coalition. If that fails, the Jewish state would have to endure another round of elections. With no clear leaders stepping up to challenge the two gridlocked frontrunners—and their refusal to compromise, the future is foggy.
Posted on October 18, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 18, 2019)
Photo Credit: FRANCE 24 English/YouTube/screenshot
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