Israel in limbo: ‘Kingmaker’ Lieberman refuses to endorse Netanyahu or Gantz for PM
Uncertainty is growing in Israel after the indecisive parliamentary election, as Avigdor Lieberman, who leads a party which has a key position in forming a coalition, refused to endorse either leading candidate for PM.
Two-day consultations between Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and leaders of political parties kicked off on Sunday. The president will have to decide who he entrusts with the mandate to form a ruling coalition.
Still, the two leaders of the Knesset election, incumbent PM Benjamin Netanyahu and head of the Blue and White alliance Benny Gantz, do not have a clear path to achieve a majority. Their parties scored 31 and 33 seats respectively, which falls far below the required 61-seat majority – and Gantz has already rebuffed Netanyahu’s calls for a “unity government.”
The prospects for securing a majority became even shakier after ex-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that his party – which secured 8 seats in the 120-seat Knesset – won’t endorse both Netanyahu and Rivlin over their choice of allies for the parliamentary coalition.
“The commitments we’ve made to our voters are rock solid, and we won’t budge at all,” Lieberman said. “As soon as Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud decided to form a bloc with ultra-Orthodox parties and religious fanatics, we can’t be part of that bloc.”
Lieberman’s position on Gantz is even tougher as h blasted the potential coalition between the Blue and White and the Arab-dominated Joint List alliances, branding them as outright “enemies.”
“[Gantz] keeping the option of forming a government with the ultra-Orthodox and the Joint List. The ultra-Orthodox parties are not enemies, but political rivals. Joint List members are certainly enemies, wherever they may be,” Lieberman said.
The Arab-dominated alliance, which secured 13 seats in the Knesset, announced its support for Gantz later in the day. It remains unclear if it will actually enter into a coalition with him, but even if it does, Gantz would only have 57 seats in parliament, which is still short of a majority. Significantly more Arabs went to the polls in these elections after Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the West Bank and installed cameras in voting stations in Arab neighborhoods.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, appears to have 55, and therefore he will likely not receive the mandate to form a government. There might be a catch, however, as Israeli media have reported that Bibi’s Likud is considering not endorsing anyone for PM. This would ensure that Gantz has a solid lead – in hopes that he ultimately fails to form a government, making it easier for Bibi to make a second attempt.
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