Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally returned the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin today. Now, the President has three days to give the mandate to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will have 28 days from the point he’s handed the mandate to do what Netanyahu failed.
There are three possible outcomes. None of them are good, but one is clearly worse than the other two. The best-case scenario (though most Israelis would disagree) is if Gantz fails to form a government. From that point, it’s open season for 21 days as any MK can attempt to form a government by securing the allegiance of 60 others. If that doesn’t happen, a third election in a year will be triggered. Israelis do not want that to happen, but if it does, Netanyahu and Likud’s allies will have an opportunity to win 61 seats outright.
A unity government is the most likely scenario in which Gantz will be Prime Minister for two years, then he’ll shift control back to Netanyahu for two years. It’s not ideal, but it’s better to have a centrist government than the third option.
In the third option, Gantz convinces Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman to join a left-wing government. This seems unlikely today as doing so would mean including the Joint List, handing more power to Arab-Israelis than they’ve ever had in Israel’s history. Joint List and Yisrael Beytenu hate each other, but there’s always the chance they hate Netanyahu even more. If this happens, politics in Israel will take a sharp turn to the left.
This would be bad for our relationship with Israel. It wouldn’t be debilitating; Gantz is progressive but he also recognizes the need to maintain security for his country with the help of the United States. Then again, we do not know how far to the left a progressive Israeli government would go if given full power. As an individual, Gantz is a good person who can lead Israel. But with the influence of far-left partners and the Joint List, he may be forced to make terrible moves in order to keep his government intact.
In such a scenario, Netanyahu has vowed to lead the opposition.
One thing is clear. Netanyahu’s failure means the political sides are polarizing. Much like what has happened in America, the gap between the left and right is widening as emotions have forced many to go to their extreme ideological fringes.
Israel has always played an important role in our ability to watch over the Middle East without being directly involved. Benny Gantz represents a threat to our own security by risking the security of his own nation. The next four weeks will be critical for both countries.
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