19:55 GMT +320 November 2019
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    A man walks by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu, left, alongside the Blue and White party leaders, from left to right, Moshe Yaalon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, April 7, 2019. Hebrew on billboards reads, left Strong Likud strong Israel on the right Every vote matters, win Blue and White. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

    Ex-Netanyahu Spokesman Warns of 3rd Set of Elections if No Breakthrough Achieved in Coalition Talks

    © AP Photo / Oded Balilty
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    As Blue and White leader Benny Gantz starts coalition talks, a former Netanyahu spokesman says everyone will need to make concessions to create a unity government. If efforts fail, Israel might find itself going to the polls for the third time in a year.

    Israel's interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz are set to meet on Sunday evening in Tel Aviv in a bid to form a coalition.

    This would be the first meeting between the two since Gantz received a mandate from President Rivlin tasking him with forming a government, after Netanyahu failed to do so and handed back his mandate on 21 October.

    Gantz might have more chances to form a government, believes Shai Bazak, Netanyahu's former media director and the person who has been his spokesperson for years.

    The Deal

    "Gantz is set to offer Netanyahu a deal. Netanyahu will be the first in rotation as prime minister but in exchange he will ask him to split from the block with the Ultra-Orthodox parties for several months. During this time, the coalition of Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Blue and White will pass several laws - including the controversial draft law - and only then will the Orthodox parties be asked to join the coalition," he said, adding that regardless of what the proposition would be both sides will have to make a series of concessions.

    "There is no chance for a coalition to emerge if both sides stick to their campaign promises so they will need to compromise," he said.

    During the election campaign, Blue and White made voters a number of promises, including vowing to create a secular government that has little or no space for Israel's Ultra-Orthodox parties and not to form a coalition with Netanyahu as long as he is under an actual or recommended indictment. 

    It's Complicated

    Now, however, if Gantz does make concessions, promises will be broken, something that will undermine his credibility in the eyes of the voters.

    Netanyahu is also facing a dilemma. On the one hand, his main goal is to remain the country's prime minister as it guarantees him immunity from possible prosecution, making Gantz's offer appealing, but on the other, he is loyal to his block with the religious parties.

    "He is concerned that Gantz and his people are putting him in a corner and the whole offer is a mere ruse, aimed at splitting the Likud alliance with the religious parties," said Bazak.

    If these fears are realised, Netanyahu might find himself in a position of a backstabber, something that will eventually backfire. Therefore, Bazak believes that the only way out for Netanyahu is to be open with his allies, giving them a clear picture as to what to expect from this round of talks.

    As to Gantz and his partners, the former spokesperson believes that they too realise that their hope for a coup inside Likud is not going to materialise and the only way forward is to work together with Likud even if that means sitting down with Netanyahu.

    "From my past experience, I can tell you that these central-left parties don't survive for too long. The leaders of Blue and White have different views on the most fundamental issues in Israeli society, and the only thing that glued them together was their desire to get rid of Netanyahu. If these efforts fail, I don't see them sticking together for too long," he concluded. 

    Things might also get complicated because of egos and because the leadership of Blue and White doesn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, including forming a government with Netanyahu and the attitude towards the religious parties. This might jeopardise the aready fragile situation and eventually lead to another round of elections in early 2020, which won't achieve much.

    "Another round of elections is pointless because the chances that both parties will reach the same results are high. So we will have this situation all over again," said Bazak, stressing that the leaders will eventually find a way out, simply because they have run out of options.
    Tags:
    Blue and White Party, Likud Party, Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu, elections, Israel
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