Senior lawmakers from the Blue & White met with their counterparts from the Joint List on Wednesday, March 11, to discuss the possibility that the latter will recommend MK Benny Gantz to receive the mandate to form a government during consultations with President Reuven Rivlin next week. Gantz, the head of Blue & White, needs the support of the Joint List to show he has enough backing to form a government.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al), who along with fellow alliance members Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash), Mansour Abbas (Ra’am) and Mtanes Shihadeh (Balad), met Blue & White MKs Ofer Shelah and Avi Nissenkorn, said that Joint List MKs had still not decided how their alliance would approach consultations with Rivlin, scheduled for Sunday, March 15
A statement issued by Tibi and Touma-Sliman indicated that the sides only discussed legislative priorities and the upcoming recommendation to Rivlin. In fact, the discussion did not directly address the possibility of the Joint List backing a Gantz-led minority government from the opposition. Instead, the participants in the meeting sought to take things one step at a time, first dealing with the presidential recommendation which takes place before coalition negotiations can even begin.
Ahead of the meeting, Shelah told reporters in the Knesset, “The goal from our perspective is to reach a majority of MKs recommending to the president that Benny Gantz form the government, and to have a functioning Knesset starting this coming Monday.”
The Joint List-Blue & White meeting came against the backdrop of a major setback to the latter’s efforts at forming a minority government. On Tuesday, March 10, Labor-Gesher-Meretz No. 2, MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, announced that she is against such a coalition and said she was no longer beholden to her Zionist left-wing political partners. This position completely contradicts her backing the idea of a minority government that she expressed during the election campaign along with other members of her party.
Zionist left-wing leaders severely attacked their former political ally MK Levy-Abekasis on Wednesday, March 12, for her game-changing announcement. Levy-Abekasis failed with her standalone Gesher party in her bid to enter the Knesset in last April’s elections, but subsequently won a seat in the September and March races through unions with the Zionist Labor and Meretz parties. Meretz leader MK Nitzan Horowitz, no. 3 on the Labor-Gesher-Meretz list, was one of many demanding she now resign her Knesset seat obtained from left-wing votes. “MK Orly Levy has to return the seat. Her words were irresponsible and risible. Throughout the campaign, all members of Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, including her, were clear in their support for a narrow government led by Gantz and supported by the Joint List. Backing out of that promise is spitting in the face of the voters. She should step down from the position she was given by left-wing voters,” Horowitz said.
Former Meretz leader Zehava Galon said in a Twitter post that she “never imagined such a betrayal of the voters. To take Meretz votes so that you can then collaborate with Bibi Netanyahu’s racist campaign against the Joint List is nauseating. Orly Levy must return her seat this very morning.”
Gantz is seeking a Knesset majority for a government made up of Blue and White (33 seats), the far-right Yisrael Beytenu (7 seats) and Labor-Gesher-Meretz (6 seats without Gesher leader Levy-Abekasis), and support from outside of the coalition of the Joint List (15 seats). Earlier Wednesday, Gantz had met with Labor-Gesher-Meretz chairman MK Amir Peretz and both sides insisted afterwards that they were still on track to form a government and oust long-serving racist premier Benjamin Netanyahu.