(Jerusalem Post) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will push for Blue and White to join a national-unity government led by him, sources close to Netanyahu said on Wednesday, following a meeting of the Likud faction at Jerusalem’s Orient Hotel.
The sources who participated in the closed-door meeting said Netanyahu would publicly pursue a coalition with all of Blue and White, though his private preference would be that Benny Gantz break up his Blue and White Party and join without Yesh Atid.
Likud MKs said that Netanyahu asked to not discuss his tactics for building a coalition. But the MKs said they have received an impression that he would agree to a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office with Gantz, as long as Netanyahu goes first.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu does not rule out any Zionist party,” Likud said in an official statement.
The results of Tuesday’s race, pending the uncounted votes of IDF soldiers and diplomats, gave Blue and White 33 seats, Likud 32, the Joint List 12, Shas nine, Yisrael Beytenu eight, United Torah Judaism eight, Yamina seven, Labor-Gesher six and the Democratic Union five. The center-right and center-left blocs both won 56 seats.
President Reuven Rivlin will begin consultations on Sunday regarding whom he should appoint to form a government. But he will already see both Netanyahu and Gantz at Thursday’s memorial ceremony for former president Shimon Peres.
Gantz is insisting on a unity government with Likud but not Netanyahu, which would be easier to accomplish if Netanyahu first tried to form a government and failed. Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin has advised Netanyahu to try to get the mandate to form a government second and watch Gantz fail first.
In an effort to prevent Shas and United Torah Judaism from receiving offers from Blue and White, he convened the heads of the right-wing parties, who promised to act as a unified right-wing bloc under Netanyahu to ensure the formation of a right-wing government.
The parties decided to form a joint negotiating team for all the factions in the bloc. The politicians who participated were Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, and Ayelet Shaked, Naftali Bennett, Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich of Yamina. Shas leader Arye Deri could not attend but is also on board.
Netanyahu warned at the Likud faction meeting that if he does not form the next government, Israel would be led by a coalition reliant on the Joint List.
“There are only two options: a government headed by me or a dangerous government together with anti-Zionist Arab parties,” Netanyahu said. “We will do everything possible to bring about a government headed by me.”
Blue and White has also announced a coalition negotiating team, led by former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s chief of staff Yoram Turbowicz.
Olmert spoke on Channel 13 on Wednesday and predicted the nation will eventually head to another election.
“Netanyahu will no longer serve as prime minister,” he said. “Not in a rotation pact [with another party], not in any other way. The people of Israel told him, ‘No more.’ The State of Israel is beginning to march in a new direction.”