Netanyahu, his rival trade accusations over failure to form gov’t

Israel’s two main parties blamed each other for the failure to form a unity government, some 48 hours ahead of the deadline given to them and possible dissolution of the parliament.

Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist party of Blue and White and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival, said his party would agree to a unity government if Netanyahu would vow not to request immunity from standing to trial in corruption indictments which were served against him.

Netanyahu has reportedly conditioned his agreement for a unity government with immunity.

“Netanyahu must put Israel’s best interest ahead of Netanyahu’s,” Gantz said in a statement, referring to the recent indictment of Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust by Israel’s attorney-general.

“I repeat my call to the prime minister to promise, with your own voice, to give up immunity, and do that today. If you give up immunity, we are partners for the beginning of negotiations,” he said.

Gantz, Israel’s former military chief, said there was still a chance to avoid “expensive and unnecessary” elections from being called on Wednesday if Netanyahu will drop his condition.

Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud party, dismissed the move as “a spin” and blamed Blue and White in “refusing” all effort to form a unity government.

He called on Avigdor Lieberman, leader of far-right Israel Our Home party, to enter “intensive negotiations” to form a “strong national government.”

Lieberman, the kingmaker of the last elections, has repeatedly said he will seat only in a unity government.

If no party could form a coalition government by Wednesday at midnight, the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, will be dissolved and the country will face elections for the third time in less than a year.

Recent opinion polls showed that new elections are expected to yield similar results to September’s deadlock vote, in which no party won enough votes to won a governing coalition.