Netanyahu and Liberman will meet to discuss unity government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and then-Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speak to the media, Jan. 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman, who prevented Netanyahu from forming a coalition government following elections in April, will meet to discuss a unity government.

The meeting, confirmed by Liberman in a social media post, is scheduled for Thursday morning in Jerusalem.

Liberman said even before the Sept. 17 elections that he wants to see a secular unity government comprised of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, the center-left Blue and White and his secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, and he doubled down on Wednesday. His party’s eight Knesset seats could put either the left wing or right wing over the 61 seats needed to form a more narrow government.

Blue and White narrowly won the most seats in the election, but Netanyahu was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government.

Liberman and Netanyahu have been at odds since May, when Liberman’s refusal to join Netanyahu in a coalition government led to a second round of elections.

Their meeting was confirmed on Wednesday hours after Liberman told a meeting of his party leaders that “the last thing the country needs is another, third round of elections,” and that if Likud and Blue and White, headed by Benny Gantz, could not agree on a unity government by Yom Kippur next week, then he would put forward his own offer.

Netanyahu reached out to Liberman for the meeting after Gantz and Blue and White canceled a Wednesday negotiation meeting, accusing Netanyahu of unacceptable preconditions, including bringing the entire right-wing bloc into the government coalition.

The prime minister reportedly received permission from the bloc to meet with Liberman.

The new Knesset is scheduled to be sworn in on Thursday.