Ballot-weary Israelis could be facing a third general election in 12 months this week after squabbling politicians again failed to come up with a ‘unity government’ solution.
Hopes of a last-minute deal were fast diminishing on Friday as the blame-game between the chief protagonists began in earnest, each blaming the other for intransigence in negotiations.
The Blue and White party, led by former IDF chief Benny Gantz and former finance minister Yair Lapid, won the most seats in September’s election, closely followed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, whose allies include right-wing nationalists and Israel’s two big strictly Orthodox parties.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz have now been unable to get the required parliamentary majority of 61 seats in order to govern, and have not been able to agree to share government on a rotation basis.
The idea behind a unity government is for Gantz to serve two years of the four-year parliamentary term as prime minister, with Netanyahu serving the other two years, but both men had said they wanted to serve first, and Netanyahu has insisted his allies join any coalition – which has always been unacceptable to Gantz and Lapid.
Avigdor Lieberman, whose right-wing secular party Yisrael Beitenu won eight of the 120 seats in September, was proclaimed kingmaker by Israel’s press but has failed to get the kings to agree. He said he has pushed for a unity government, to no avail.
“Netanyahu and Gantz are playing a blame game,” he said. “I tried to apply real pressure to them, but unfortunately both of them have made a strategic decision not to go to unity, so both parties bear responsibility for another election.”
Netanyahu’s legal woes have only worsened since he was indicted on corruption charges – this week his cousin and lawyer was charged over his part in a dodgy submarine deal with a German company worth more than £1 billion.
The prime minister blamed the failure on “Blue and White’s opposition” but Gantz said Netanyahu “should not seek out others to blame,” adding: “He needs to look me and the citizens of Israel in the eyes and tell us what he thinks and what he wants, instead of deflecting responsibility.
“No prime minister has ever placed himself and his needs before those of the State of Israel like Netanyahu is currently doing.”