A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and could-be kingmaker Avigdor Liberman on Thursday ended without any breakthrough, dampening the prospect of forging a coalition government following last month’s election.
This was their first meeting since the Sept. 17 election delivered an indecisive result.
As it stands, Netanyahu does not have the minimum 61 parliament members required to form a coalition.
Liberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party who decided not to endorse any candidate for prime minister, has enough seats in his party to sway that.
But Liberman has so far refused to lend Netanyahu his support, because he is not willing to sit with ultra-Orthodox parties that would be part of a potential Netanyahu-led government.
September’s election ended in a stalemate between Netanyahu’s centre-right Likud and the centrist rival Blue and White party, a result similar to a general election in April.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had called for a unity government including both parties, but talks between them have been frozen in light of a lack of progress on major points of disagreement.
Likud released a statement that Netanyahu had invited Liberman to join the government but that “no breakthrough was achieved in the meeting”.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Liberman reiterated his party’s stance that it seeks to be part of a national unity government with Likud and Blue and White.
“We will not be partner to any other government,” he said.
A major obstacle to to this position is an agreement signed by Netanyahu’s Likud with a bloc of right-wing and religious parties that they will not enter a coalition without one another.
Netanyahu’s coalition-building efforts failed following the previous election in April because Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu refused to join his government over disagreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Their meeting came ahead of the inauguration of the 22nd Knesset, which looks similar to the one sworn in 150 days ago.
Edited by Emmanuel Yashim
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