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Likud, Lapid And Gantz Deny Report That They’re in Unity Government Talks
By Staff, Agencies
The Zionist entity’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party denied a Wednesday report that it has been negotiating under the radar with centrist rivals Yesh Atid and ‘National Unity’ in order to form a unity government that would not be reliant upon far-right parties.
Yesh Atid and a spokesperson for ‘National Unity’ also denied the report from Hebrew daily Maariv, which said that people close to Netanyahu, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and ‘National Unity’s’ Benny Gantz were quietly probing the option.
Prime Minister Lapid and War Minister Gantz have both said they would not partner with Netanyahu and committed to sitting in the opposition after November 1’s election delivered a decisive 64-seat majority to Likud and its right-religious bloc in the 120-seat Knesset.
While Netanyahu and far-right party Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit, as well as Haredi partners Shas and United Torah Judaism, campaigned on a pledge to form a right-wing government together, coalition talks have stalled over ministry postings, particularly for Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich, who is demanding to be defense minister.
Likud said the Wednesday report was “fake news” and “spin that never was.”
“Those that are investing so much in spreading fake news should rather invest those efforts in forming a fully right-wing government, immediately,” the party’s statement continued, implying that Religious Zionism may be the source of the report.
A spokesperson for Smotrich did not immediately answer a request for comment.
Briefly bridging their negotiations impasse, Smotrich and Netanyahu met on Tuesday evening after a week of not negotiating face-to-face. However, their negotiations apparently broke down again, with planned meetings for Wednesday canceled.
Smotrich is pressing to receive the sensitive defense ministry or the finance post, both problematic given the US and other allies’ stated opposition to working with the ultranationalist. Smotrich developed a reputation as a competent minister of transportation but would be a particularly problematic choice to lead the security establishment, given that he was arrested by the Shin Bet in 2005 in connection to planned violent protests against settlement withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
He was ultimately released without being charged.
Yesh Atid called the reports of unity talks “unfounded rumors” and accused Likud of spreading them in order to “lower prices charged by Smotrich and [Shas leader Aryeh] Deri.”
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