Some claim Gantz, Netanyahu closer to deal, but stumbling blocks unresolved

Sides still at odds over Knesset speaker, Justice Ministry and West Bank annexation, even as sources say government could be sworn in next

President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz,

Times of Israel reports, “Interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz were said in some reports to be inching closer to forming a unity coalition, with claims that the government could be sworn in as early as next Monday, but other sources said squabbles within the premier’s bloc were complicating the negotiations. As the talks have dragged on, speculation has grown that Netanyahu might seek to string out the negotiations until Passover, when Gantz’s mandate from the president to form a coalition ends, reducing his leverage over Netanyahu.”

“The two sides have struggled to resolve differences over some ministry posts and the Knesset speaker slot. Gantz’s faction is demanding the lion’s share of the cabinet’s top positions and has rejected a request from the Likud party to again have Yuli Edelstein named speaker after he quit earlier this month rather than carry out a Supreme Court order to hold a vote on his successor. Gantz has also resisted Netanyahu’s plan to unilaterally extend Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.”…

“The issue of West Bank annexation also remained unresolved as of Tuesday, though it appeared that Likud may be permitted to hold a Knesset vote on the matter, while members of Blue and White would not be forced to vote in favor of it. Instead they would be given leave to “vote their conscience,” in the parlance of such parliamentary agreements.”

A meeting of the heads of the bloc of parties supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“While Netanyahu made a declaration of Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements, as well as over the Jordan Valley, a staple of his campaign ahead of the March 2 election, Gantz offered mixed messages on the matter. He expressed support for annexing the Jordan Valley, but conditioned the measure on it being coordinated with the international community — an idea that appears far-fetched as the US has been the only country that has not rejected the prospect of annexation outright.” (more…)

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