Back in the 1990s, Netanyahu ran for prime minister against the veteran Shimon Peres. In those days, the PM was directly elected and Rabin had just been shot. Some Likud wag coined the slogan “Bibi or Tibi.” Knesset member Ahmad Tibi was then the leader of Israel’s Palestinian minority and he was frequently shown on the news meeting with Yasser Arafat.
All over Israel, in the current election, the Likud has posters saying “Gantz has no government without Tibi”, invoking the Bibi or Tibi slogan. What they don’t say is that the Likud has no government with Bibi: Gantz and his party categorically refuse to form a coalition with Netanyahu.
There is currently only one way out of the impasse Israel finds itself in: The Likud must ditch Netanyahu. Gantz could form a government with the Arab “Joint List” party if Lieberman agreed to support such a coalition but both Ayman Odeh, leader of the “Joint List” party, and Avigdor Lieberman are adamant that they won’t sit together in government. Lieberman, leader of the mainly Russian immigrant party “Yisrael Beytenu”, also insists that he won’t form a coalition with a government that includes Netanyahu. In many respects Lieberman is the decisive force without whom no party can form a coalition, and Lieberman currently insists on a national unity government which is not led by Netanyahu.
Today, Ahmad Tibi is still an MK (Member of Knesset) and a senior member of the “Joint List” party, but he no longer leads Israel’s Arabs. That role now belongs to Ayman Odeh and any Arab-Jewish coalition must include Odeh rather than Tibi. In reality Israel has no government except for one which is NOT led by Netanyahu.
The Likud is right about one thing though, over 10% of Knesset Members belong to the “Joint List” and it is the third largest party. The exclusion of the “Joint List” severely limits the ability to form coalitions and the longer the current impasse continues, the more attractive their participation will become.