Blue and White Reneges on Commitment Not to Govern with Arab Parties’ Support

In this Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 photo, Israeli Knesset member, Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, gives an interview to The Associated Press, in his office at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem. Lapid believes he has finally found a formula that will allow him to do something …
AP/Sebastian Scheiner

TEL AVIV – Blue and White number two MK Yair Lapid on Tuesday said the only way to avoid the “catastrophe” of fourth elections was to form a narrow minority government with the backing of the Arab-majority Joint List, reneging on campaign promises that his party would never rely on support from the Arab factions.

While “not the government we wanted,” this option is “far better than the current paralysis,” Lapid argued in a Facebook post.

“Such a government could formulate a budget; government ministries would return to work, the Knesset committees would open, and we can prevent mass layoffs in the economy and help small  businesses,” Lapid said.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the main challenger Blue and White party are likely facing another political impasse after last week’s election.  Likud, the largest party, has support from 58 MKs, three less than necessary to form a majority-government in the 120-seat Knesset.

However, the secular right-wing Yisrael Beitenu, the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz and the Joint List together would mean a 62-seat majority supporting Benny Gantz as prime minister.

Lapid made assurances in his post that the Joint List’s backing for Gantz to form a government would not mean they would join it.

“Contrary to the lies that Bibi is disseminating, the Joint List would not be part of this government,” Lapid wrote Tuesday referring to Netanyahu by his nick name. “They will vote once from the outside [to back Gantz as candidate for prime minister], and there it will end.”

Still, it is unlikely that the Joint List will agree to back Gantz without compromises, chiefly, demanding that the Blue and White leader walk back his endorsement of Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This is what we always wanted, and is what we would do today … with Gantz [as prime minister] first, as Netanyahu is facing a court case,” Lapid wrote.

He continued by claiming that Netanyahu would push for fourth elections rather than build a unity government, in order to “save himself from prison” in the three corruption charges facing him.

“The only thing that interests him is his indictments,” Lapid wrote.

“So, what’s left? Just two options, one hard, the second a catastrophe,” he wrote.

“More elections, more baseless hatred, more incitement, more violence, billions more shekels wasted,” he wrote.

Lapid also voiced support for a unity government with Likud, but said that option was impossible since Netanyahu would not agree to a rotation agreement of the premiership that would see Gantz serve as prime minister first.

“Or, we can go to a fourth round of elections, like Bibi wants, more elections, more hatred. What’s best for the State of Israel?”

Lapid’s plan, however, faced strong opposition from within his party when right-wing MKs Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel ruled out backing a minority government by the Joint List.

Without Hendel and Hauser, the Blue and White-led coalition would slip to between 58-60, and force Gantz to gather support from the three MKs who form Balad, the most extreme Arab party in the Knesset which has in the past been accused of supporting terrorism. The Balad MKs did not back Gantz in September.

On Monday, Gantz and Yisrael Beitenu head and kingmaker Liberman said they would work together to form a government.

“We’ve just concluded a good meeting, where we discussed questions of fundamental principle and determined that we will work together to assemble a government that will pull Israel out of the political deadlock and avert a fourth round of elections,” Gantz, alongside Liberman, told reporters according to a translation of his Hebrew remarks by The Times of Israel. “We’ll continue to discuss the details, formulate our common objectives, and move forward.”

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