Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz have started to work together towards breaking a political deadlock, France24 reports. Two leaders had a meeting, during which they discussed the latest developments and perspectives for both parties they represent.
Gantz and Netanyahu, the leaders of Israeli two largest political parties met on Monday, hoping to avoid the third election in less than a year. None of them commented as President Rivlin brought them together for a photo at the beginning of the meeting. The rivals looked tense as Rivlin forced a smile.
Monday meeting will continue, the joint statement said. The negotiators would continue the talks Tuesday while President Rivlin had invited both Gantz and Netanyahu to meet with him on Wednesday evening.
Under current law, the president is responsible for choosing a candidate for prime minister after national elections. That task is usually a formality, given to the leader who has the best chance of forming a stable majority coalition in the 120-seat parliament.
Political deadlock in Israel continues after elections
A unity deal between the large parties is seen as perhaps the only way out of the impasse. During meeting with the political rivals, President Rivlin has reminded them that Israelis expect them to find a solution and to prevent further elections, even if it comes at a personal and even ideological cost. “This is not the time to exclude people,” Rivlin concluded.
But last week’s election ended in deadlock, with neither Netanyahu nor Gantz able to put together a coalition with smaller allied political parties. That has complicated presidential task and his only desire so far is forcing the political opponents to make the united front.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz have expressed support for a unity deal between their parties. But there are deep, seemingly unbridgeable differences between them.
Gantz has said he will not partner with Likud as long as Netanyahu is at the helm, citing the prime minister’s legal problems. Israel’s attorney general has recommended charging Netanyahu with a series of corruption-related charges and is expected to make a final decision following a hearing with the prime minister early next month.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, believes he should remain at the helm of a unity government and has signed a deal with his smaller allies, including ultra-Orthodox parties, to negotiate as a “bloc.”
Rivlin is expected by Wednesday to designate either Gantz or Netanyahu with the seemingly impossible task of trying to cobble together a government. His choice will have up to six weeks to reach a deal with coalition partners. If he fails, Rivlin can choose another candidate for prime minister. If those efforts fail, the country could be forced into a third election.