A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and could-be kingmaker Avigdor Liberman yesterday ended without any breakthrough, dampening the prospect of forging a coalition government following last month's election. The talks between the two ended after barely one hour and at the end of the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman said that no breakthrough was achieved during the discussions.
Lieberman, for his part, said in light of the security and economic challenges, the right path is to find common ground between his Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu's Likud party, and Blue and White coalition. "Only then we'll discuss distributing ministries and the Prime Minister's rotation," Lieberman said. Liberman has so far refused to lend Netanyahu his support, because he is not willing to sit with ultra-Orthodox parties that would be part of a potential Netanyahu-led government.
September's election ended in a stalemate between Netanyahu's center-right Likud and the centrist rival Blue and White party, a result similar to a general election in April. Netanyahu's coalition-building efforts failed following the previous election in April because Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu refused to join his government over disagreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Confident he will be able to hold the prime minister position once again, this time the September elections forced Netanyahu to form a coalition. With neither leader appearing able to put together a coalition with a ruling majority on his own, Israel's president last week gave Netanyahu 28 days to try to form the next government in the hope of securing a power-sharing deal.
Netanyahu has offered to form a national coalition with main political opponent Benny Gantz, however, Gantz's party is not eager to go into a coalition with Netanyahu, who is facing serious allegations and accusations. Gantz canceled yesterday's meeting between the two, with his Blue and White party citing a lack of progress in talks for a national unity government. Gantz's centrist Blue and White party stood at 33 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Netanyahu's conservative Likud stood at 31 seats; therefore, Gantz believes that he should be leading the country whether a coalition is formed or not. The preconditions the party referred to are Netanyahu's agreement with a bloc of right-wing and religious parties that they will not enter a coalition without one another. An additional issue is who would go first in a premiership rotation, as Blue and White say they will not sit in a government led by someone who is facing indictment.