Netanyahu and right-wing parties agree to continue pact

Right-religious bloc meets after Blue and White cancels negotiations meeting. Likud minister: MK Lapid responsible for negotiations failure.

Hezki Baruch,

PM Netanyahu
PM Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning met with the leaders of the right-religious camp to discuss the implosion in coalition negotiations with the center-left Blue and White party.

Likud's Environmental Protection Minister Ze'ev Elkin and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told the party representatives that Blue and White's negotiating team canceled Wednesday's meeting because "[Blue and White leader MK Yair] Lapid won over [Blue and White chairman MK Benny] Gantz over the holiday in his attempt to drag the country to new elections."

"Lapid does not want a rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz, but between himself and Gantz," they explained.

At the end of the meeting, it was decided that the parties of the right-religious bloc would continue in their agreement to remain a united bloc.

It has not yet been decided whether Netanyahu will hand the mandate to form a government back to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Absent from the meeting were Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and Yamina leader MK Naftali Bennett, who had "personal matters" which had been scheduled ahead of time. Deri met privately with Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday, and former Shas minister Ariel Atias represented the party at the larger meeting.

In a Wednesday morning interview with Arutz Sheva, Levin said Lapid is behind the attempts to foil the chance of a unity government, and that this is not his personal estimation or opinion.

"We know this. It's not a guess. This is a clear and simple fact. Benny Gantz very much understands the situation and the feeling is that he would like to advance, and so he scheduled this meeting for today, but Yair Lapid intervened and wants to hamper the process in any way possible."

Levin also said that Netanyahu intends to stick by the right-wing bloc and there is no intention of dismantling it, despite the Blue and White demand to do so.

"We made a commitment during the elections not to enter a government without our partners, and we intend to stand by that commitment. There's no reason we shouldn't," he explained.

"It's completely clear from Blue and White's entire intention and everything they say that they are not willing to accept the fact that we come with our partners and they aim to disband our pact. That way they will be able to make agreements with some of our partners. They thought that it would be practical to dissolve our partnership, but this agreement is strong and firmly established in our promises to the public, as well as on the transparency that allowed the previous Knesset to govern in a good way."