The Israeli president tells Netanyahu and Gantz to pay a & # 39; personal price & # 39; in coalition talks
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has warned Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz that they must be ready to pay a personal prize & # 39; while the coalition talks started after the country's impasse.
The trio met for two hours on Monday evening at the President & # 39; s Residence, with Netanyahu and Gantz left alone for half an hour of closed-door talks.
Afterwards, Rivlin & # 39; stated considerable progress & # 39; and said that both men had agreed to enter into negotiations to form a government of national unity.
But separately, both Netanyahu and Gantz assured their allies that they gave no ground.
President Reuven Rivlin (center) praised & # 39; significant progress & # 39; in conversations between Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Benny Gantz (right) after a two-hour meeting in the presidential palace
Rivlin said the two men had agreed to hold talks to form a government of national unity, and their negotiating teams will meet Tuesday before another meeting of party leaders Wednesday
Netanyahu told his right-wing allies that he kept his promise to negotiate with them like a bloc and would not enter government without them.
Meanwhile, Gantz faithfully assured his party that he will not fall back on his demand that Netanyahu withdraw as prime minister.
He also promised not to give up & # 39; on our values or on our natural partners & # 39; because he said earlier that he would not become a government with the nationalist allies of Netanyahu.
Gantz & # 39; s allies told it Times of Israel that they believe that Netanyahu's presence at the negotiating table is a sham and that he is playing for a third round of elections later this year.
Meanwhile, at a private meeting of MPs, Netanyahu said the current situation could take months to resolve Jerusalem Post reports.
Negotiating teams from both parties would take place on Tuesday, before Netanyahu, Gantz and Rivlin meet for the second time on Wednesday.
While the talks started, Rivlin said: “You are responsible for establishing a government, and people expect you to find a solution and prevent further elections, even if this entails personal and even ideological costs. & # 39;
The Israeli president is responsible for choosing a candidate for prime minister after national elections. That task is usually a formality, given to the leader who has the best chance of forming a stable majority coalition in the parliament with 120 seats.
But in separate statements to the faithful party, both Gantz (left) and Netanyahu (right) insisted that they give up no ground whatsoever
But last week's elections ended in an impasse, where neither Netanyahu, who has ruled the country for the past decade, nor Gantz was able to form a coalition with smaller allied political parties.
This has enormously complicated the task of Rivlin. A unity agreement between the major parties is perhaps seen as the only way out of the impasse.
Over the past two days, Rivlin has met with leaders from all parties elected to parliament.
Gantz & # 39; s centrist Blue and White came in first, with 33 seats, followed by Netanyahu & # 39; s Likud, with 31.
With smaller allied parties, a total of 55 legislators have thrown their support behind Netanyahu and 54 in favor of Gantz, leaving both men behind the required majority of 61 seats.
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist party Yisrael Beitenu, has become the most important power broker.
Lieberman, who controls eight seats, has refused to endorse both candidates. He has demanded that they join him in a broad, secular unitary government.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz have expressed their support for a unity agreement between their parties. But there are deep, seemingly unbridgeable differences between them.
Gantz has said that he will not cooperate with Likud as long as Netanyahu is at the helm, citing the prime minister's legal problems.
The Israeli Attorney General has recommended that Netanyahu be charged with a series of corruption-related charges and is expected to make a final decision following a hearing with the Prime Minister early next month.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu believes he must remain at the helm of a unitary government and has signed a deal with his smaller allies, including ultra-orthodox parties, to negotiate as a & # 39; block & # 39 ;.
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Beitenu party in Yisrael, has emerged as king-maker, but currently does not endorse either of the candidates
The Arab parties of Israel have broken the tradition of supporting Gantz, but are not united in their support and he still has a shortage of seats
Lieberman, a former ally of Netanyahu, refuses to be in a coalition with the ultra-orthodox parties. In April, the Soviet-born politician refused to join the Netanyahu coalition after elections, and this led to the repeated vote on September 17.
Lieberman objected to what he said was excessive influence of the religious parties, leaving Netanyahu without a majority and forcing him to call the new elections.
Israeli media said no breakthroughs were expected during Monday's meeting.
Rivlin is expected to appoint Gantz or Netanyahu on Wednesday with the seemingly impossible task of trying to put a government together.
His choice will take up to six weeks to reach a deal with coalition partners. If he fails, Rivlin can choose another candidate for prime minister. If those efforts fail, the country can be forced into a third election.
During the Rivlin consultations, most parties made their expected recommendations: nationalist and religious parties supported Netanyahu & Likud, while two more centrist parties took Gantz's side despite his military background.
In a breach of custom, a coalition of Arab parties approved Gantz, the first time they had recommended a candidate since 1992.
Arab parties have usually refrained from approving and do not want to be seen as legitimizing Israeli policies that they find discriminatory or hostile to their Palestinian brothers.
Arab leaders said the decision focused on overthrowing Netanyahu, whose anti-Arab rhetoric has insulted the Arab minority of the country, and expressed their growing political influence. The Arabian public makes up around 20% of the population of Israel.
But on Monday, three Arab lawmakers said they withdrew their recommendations for Gantz and shortened his support to below that of Netanyahu.
In last week's vote, Netanyahu had hoped for a limited majority of harsh and religious parties who could grant him immunity from prosecution of allegations that could include bribery, breach of trust, and fraud. But now that possibility does not seem to be on the table.
Israeli law does not require a sitting prime minister to resign if he is charged. But if he is accused, as is generally expected, he will come under heavy pressure.
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