Unity talks between Likud Party and Blue and White end with no progress on erev Rosh Hashana

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) — Talks between the Likud party and Blue and White toward forming a unity government ended hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah with no progress.

Following the talks on Sunday morning, both sides blamed the other for intransigence.

Netanyahu had said the previous evening that if the Sunday talks were not productive, he would return his mandate to form the government back to Rivlin and tell him he is unable to form a majority coalition. But following Sunday’s meeting, Likud would make one more effort to form a government, implying that Netanyahu would turn to other parties.

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Likud said the lack of progress was due to “Blue and White’s refusal to accept the unity government” proposed by President Reuven Rivlin of “an equal government with a rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz.” The statement called it “a strategic decision to slam the door to a unity government and drag the state into elections.”

Blue and White said in a statement following Sunday’s negotiation session: “Regrettably, Likud is sticking to its precondition of Netanyahu first. Within this framework, Likud is insistent on the 55-member bloc and on throwing around slogans with the sole aim of generating support in preparation for dragging Israel into another round of elections at the behest of Netanyahu. The State of Israel needs a broad, stable and liberal unity government under the leadership of Benny Gantz – we will continue to pursue this goal and this goal alone.”

Hours  later Blue and White issued a statement calling for continuing negotiations toward a unity government.

“This is our goal and we will take all possible steps to achieve it in this new year. We will spare no effort and hold every possible meeting in order to advance our aim,” the statement said.