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Likud MK: Netanyahu open to coalition with Benny Gantz

Newly allied Israeli centrist politicians, Benny Gantz (L) a former armed forces chief of staff, and Yair Lapid, react as they deliver a joint statement in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on 21 February 2019, ahead of the April 9 general election. [GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
Newly allied Israeli centrist politicians, Benny Gantz (L) a former armed forces chief of staff, and Yair Lapid, react as they deliver a joint statement in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on 21 February 2019, ahead of the April 9 general election. [GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

A Likud lawmaker said yesterday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to include Blue and White list leader Benny Gantz in the next coalition government, but not his deputy Yair Lapid, reported The Times of Israel.

“We have no problem going with Gantz,” MK David Bitan told Radio Drom, “but without Yesh Atid”, referring to Lapid’s party and one of the constituent members of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance.

Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein – placed second in the Likud list – also refused to rule out a coalition with Gantz. “I’m not one to disqualify. Every Zionist party is invited to enter negotiations based on the lines we can live with,” Edelstein told Kan.

According to the Times of Israel, the comments by Bitan and Edelstein were confirmation of reports that Netanyahu has told Likud members that “he would try to bring Gantz and his Israel Resilience party into a Likud-led coalition that includes ultra-Orthodox and national-religious factions”.

READ: Likud MK claims that ‘stars aligned’ for annexation of West Bank land 

Likud parliamentarians believe that Gantz and his party are deemed to be the most likely element within the Blue and White list to join a right-wing coalition.

Blue and White, formed prior to last April’s elections, is made up of Gantz’s Israel Resilience party, Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party.

Sources in Blue and White, however, responded to the recent reports by claiming that they are in talks with Likud MKs about forming a coalition together without Netanyahu.

The Blue and White alliance is currently under strain over Lapid’s explicit campaigning against ultra-Orthodox parliamentarians. “This is not an easy thing to say, but Yair Lapid is standing between us and victory in the elections,” a senior Blue and White source said Tuesday.

“While ultra-Orthodox parties have suggested they could sit in a coalition with Gantz,” the Times of Israel explained, “they have ruled out joining a government that includes Lapid, who championed legislation during a stint as finance minister between 2013-2014 aimed at increasing ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the military.”

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