Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz

Israel could be heading for a ‘Netanyahu-Gantz’ Prime Minister election. The notion has support from leading MKs and would mean Israelis going to the polls for a third time in a year. 

No coalition was forthcoming after April’s elections, necessitating another in September.

Incumbent PM Benjamin Netanyahu failed to gain a coalition around his Likud party when handed the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin whilst Blue and White Benny Gantz has similarly struggled to gain traction since being offered the chance last month. 

The proposition by Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri has gained public support from Likud MK Miki Zohar and New Right party leader MK Ayelet Shaked.

Likud would push for a direct PM election according to Zohar though Netanyahu is reportedly concerned but it is a reasoned possibility.

The Knesset passed legislation in the 1990s for citizens to vote for a party and directly a Prime Minister. In the first “double” election, Netanyahu defeated Labour Party leader Shimon Peres in 1996. 

The last direct PM election took place in 2001, when Likud’s Ariel Sharon ousted Labor leader Ehud Barak. The sitting Knesset remained in office. Israel subsequently returned to the one-vote system through legislation and Sharon claimed victory in 2003.

An impasse continues with Netanyahu and Gantz in terms of a coalition in the 120-member Knesset.

Zohar’s proposal would keep the sitting parliament with a vote only for a leader. Parties would negotiate with the victor in government or sit in opposition.

Recent polls have Netanyahu ahead of Gantz.

Gantz, like Netanyahu, is struggling to form a government.

KAN has reported Yisrael Beitenu will agree to coalition guidelines but will not sign an agreement without knowing other parties. Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz meanwhile has stated two options, a national unity coalition government or third round of elections. 

He rejected allegations Netanyahu favours another round of elections.

“I know first hand this is not the case,” he said.

Gantz met Arab-dominated Joint List leaders at the end of last week in his coalition bid.

“The meeting took place in a good atmosphere and various issues, which are important to Arab society, were discussed, with an emphasis on civil issues,” said a Blue and White statement. 

“Gantz emphasised the treatment of these issues is not conditioned on anything.”

Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh commented, “We promised our public to promote their values and will do everything possible to make them a reality.”

Odeh added that issues discussed involved “all Israeli citizens”.

“We remain true to the values of peace and equality and as always, welcome Likud’s hysteria,” he noted.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi welcomed the meeting as it was the first time a PM candidate had talks with Arab parties since Barak won 1999 election. 

“We held a discussion about both civil and political issues, MK Odeh and I are pleased with the understandings reached on the civil matters,” Tibi said. “Certainly, there is a need for further talks to be conducted in a thorough manner, unlike meetings we’ve had with other leaders.”

Barely two weeks remain for a new government before the Presidential mandate ends.

By Louis Landsmann