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Netanyahu’s Amazing Reversal: Election Loser to Presumptive Premier

Preliminary unity talks quickly broke down, however, and the path to unity is fraught.

Mr. Gantz’s party has been advocating a unity government for months but refuses to sit in a coalition led by a prime minister facing indictment on accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It has also accused Likud of negotiating in bad faith. Mr. Netanyahu already signed up his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox allies in a pact, pledging, in return for their loyalty, to negotiate on their behalf.

“We promised, in the election campaign, that we would form a right wing government with all our partners,” Yariv Levin, a Likud minister and negotiator, told Israeli public radio on Thursday. “We can’t do that, but we can definitely hold onto all our partners and so we shall.”

Speaking to his party faithful on Thursday, Mr. Gantz called upon Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud to resume unity talks immediately, “without preconditions, without spin and without blocs.”

Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the secular, ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, has so far refused to back either candidate. With eight seats, his party could still hold the balance.

Mr. Liberman, a former Netanyahu ally turned rival, has imposed tough conditions for sitting in a government with ultra-Orthodox parties again, some of which they would be hard pressed to meet. But he said on Thursday that he would be willing to enter into talks with Likud.

But Mr. Netanyahu may be in a hurry, as his political timetable is about to collide with his legal one. He has a hearing set with the attorney general on Oct. 2, and charges could be filed within weeks.

If he is criminally charged, he can only remain in his post if he is prime minister, until a final conviction. As an ordinary minister, he would have to resign.

Source: NYT > World News

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