Netanyahu and Gantz are negotiating power-sharing

Negotiators from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, wrapped up their meeting on Tuesday to negotiate the possibility of forming a unity government they believe they deserve to head.

Negotiators from the Likud party headed by Minister Yariv Levin and Yoram Turbovich's Blue White party ended their meeting to follow up the meeting between their leaders and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin late Monday.

The negotiators from the two parties said in a statement that "the meeting was practical and took place in a good atmosphere and spirit."

Levin stressed that he represents the Likud and represents all 55 members of the right-wing bloc.

The two sides agreed that they would brief Netanyahu and Gantz "on the contents of the meeting and then decide on further talks and other steps," the statement added.

Netanyahu's meeting with Gantz was their first formal meeting since the September 17 elections, which resulted in Gantz winning the most seats.

But with no clear way for each to form a coalition government on its own. The two men are scheduled to meet again with President Rivlin on Wednesday evening.

President Rivlin, who must choose who will form the next government, relied heavily on the two parties to form a coalition and urged them on Monday night to find a way to do so.

"The responsibility for forming a government lies with you," he said.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz say they want a unity government, but they disagree over who will lead it first, in putting forward a rotation arrangement, and other details about the formation of such a coalition.

But who will be prime minister first is a major stumbling block. The timing is particularly important for Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges in the coming weeks and will appear at a hearing in early October.

The prime minister is not legally obliged to step down if charged, but only if convicted and exhausted. Other ministers can be forced to do so when charged.

Gantz pointed out that he is the largest party, hinting that he is the right to head the government. "The public has chosen to change and we have no intention of giving up our leadership, our principles or our natural partners to this path," he wrote in a statement late on Monday.

Netanyahu spoke of the fact that he enjoyed greater support from smaller parties in parliament and vowed not to abandon them in a coalition deal.

During Rivlin's parliamentary consultations, Netanyahu received 55 recommendations against 54 for Gantz

"I am committed to what I promised you," he said after a meeting late Monday, addressing right-wing and religious parties allied with Likud.

Gantz's Blue White party came in first with 33 seats, while the right-wing Likud party won 31 of the 120 seats in parliament. This is the second election since April.

But both sides remain incapable of forming a government.

Rivlin pledged that he would do everything in his power to avoid holding other elections that might be awaiting Israelis next spring.

"The people are waiting for you to find a solution," Rivlin said.

Gantz, a former army chief of staff who lacks political experience, faces a seasoned rival and fierce negotiator who has served as Israel's longest-serving prime minister for more than 13 years and has repeatedly beat his rivals.

Rivlin is expected to announce the nominee for the task of forming an Israeli government on Wednesday, when he will be handed the final official election results.


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