Netanyahu and Gantz cancel meeting on unity government as each side says the other refused to compromise

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Benny Gantz flank Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the president’s residence in Jerusalem, Sept. 23, 2019, They met to discuss forming a unity government. Photo: Haim Zach/Israeli Government Press Office

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was canceled as their parties accused each other of being unwilling to compromise in efforts to form a unity government in Israel.

A Blue and White statement issued Tuesday night said that “the preconditions upon which any further meetings between the negotiating teams may take place have not been met.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu in a meeting with right-wing party heads reaffirmed that he would negotiate as a united bloc with the national-religious and Orthodox parties and that they would only enter a new government together.

Gantz has called for the formation of a secular unity government and has said that Blue and White will not sit in a government with Netanyahu while he has corruption charges pending against him.

“Blue and White’s negotiating team canceled the meeting because (Yair) Lapid caused Gantz to fold over the holiday with the purpose of dragging the country to elections,” Likud said Wednesday in a statement, speaking of the chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party. “Lapid doesn’t want a rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz but rather between him and Gantz.”

Meanwhile, Avigdor Liberman, head of the secular Yisrael Beiteinu party, said Wednesday that if there is no breakthrough in forming a unity government by Yom Kippur, on Oct. 10, then his party will present its own offer. Liberman began calling for a secular unity government prior to the Sept. 17 elections.