Israeli politics remained stuck in a logjam on Monday, with Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman appearing to rebuff a call to join a right-wing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White party number two Yair Lapid saying he would forgo a rotating arrangement with party chairman Benny Gantz.
Following a second round of elections in September after a vote in April failed to produce a clear winner, both Netanyahu and Gantz have failed to form a workable governing coalition. If one was not established by Wednesday, a third round of elections would be triggered automatically.
On Monday, a tentative date for those potential elections was announced — March 2.
Netanyahu called earlier Monday for Lieberman to renege on his pledge to only support a unity government and instead join a narrow right-wing coalition.
The Israeli news site Walla reported that Lieberman seemed to reject any such possibility, telling a group of officials from Netanyahu’s Likud party on Monday evening that “a narrow government will be sorrow for the State of Israel,” a play on the Hebrew word “tzara,” which means both “narrow” and “sorrow.”
“Israel faces a dual challenge — security and economic — and cannot function within the reduced framework of a narrow government, which would be a great sorrow for Israel,” Lieberman added.
Also on Monday, Lapid told a Blue and White faction meeting that he would not seek a rotating premiership with Gantz.
When Lapid’s Yesh Atid party merged with Gantz’s Israel Resilience party last year to form the centrist Blue and White alliance, it was originally agreed that the two men would rotate in the prime minister’s office. Polls have consistently shown this to be unpopular, with most Israelis finding Lapid unsuited for the top job.
“What is important is not the rotation,” Lapid said, according to Israeli news site Mako. “I didn’t enter politics for a seat. What is important is the results for students, for the collapse of [hospital] emergency rooms, for the children in shelters in the Gaza border area.”
“We are all one big united Blue and White behind Benny Gantz — our candidate for prime minister,” Lapid added. “I am not giving up anything. It is a great privilege to be part of Blue and White.”