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Benny Gantz returns mandate after failure to form Israeli government

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Benny Gantz returns mandate after failure to form Israeli government

The deadlock in Israel has caused a second leader to fail to form a government, plummeting Israel into unprecedented territory as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has returned the mandate to President Rivlin. Now, MKs have 21 days to form a 61-member majority government under someone – anyone – or the Jewish state will be plunged into a third round of elections in less than a year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given the first mandate but failed to form a unity government as he stayed true to his conservative bloc of 55 MKs. Gantz received the second mandate, and after briefly flirting with attempts to work with Netanyahu, tried to put together a coalition that would have included the Arab Joint List, an unpopular move as the group denies the right of Israel to even exist as a singular nation.

At the center of all the turmoil is Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman, the conservative secular leader who left Netanyahu’s coalition last year over opposition to religious exemptions given to ultra-orthodox Jews that allows them to avoid mandated military service. He has been pushing for a unity government ever since, but neither side was willing to accept the other side’s demands fully.

There are very few maneuvers available to either side. President Rivlin could try to actively pursue collecting 61 MKs behind a single person, likely a member of either Likud or Blue and White, to force both sides to the table behind someone other than Gantz or Netanyahu. He could ask the Knesset to extend the 21-day deadline to prevent a third round of elections. As JPost noted, this is uncharted waters for the Middle Eastern nation:

21 days of chaos start as race to form a government begins

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/21-days-of-chaos-start-as-race-to-form-a-government-begins-ANALYSIS-608470What if Rivlin takes an active or campaigning role to form a government?

Could he use his status as president to undermine Netanyahu within the Likud or Gantz within Blue and White in order to help form a government since the two of them seem unable to close a deal?

Could he help engineer unexpected splits in other smaller parties to form a mishmash coalition that would never have happened under normal circumstances?

While the answers to these two questions are both “yes” – anyone in the Knesset can do this and Rivlin has no special constitutional powers beyond any other MK’s, other than his status as president, that gives him an edge for achieving a strange new coalition.

In fact, indications have been that Rivlin feels burned by the failure of Netanyahu and Gantz to work out a deal after he took an activist position in suggesting a compromise between them regarding the rotation for prime minister, and how to deal with Netanyahu’s legal problems.

This chaos couldn’t have come at a worse time (not that there’s a good time for chaos in Israel) as mounting military pressure from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Iran has the IDF on high alert on all fronts. One thing playing to Neyanyahu’s advantage is the announcement by the White House that the United States has reversed our stance on settlements in the West Bank. This could prompt Netanyahu to annex the land between Israel and Jordan, which has been under Israeli control since the Six-Day War in 1967.

The world will be watching closely as nobody knows how this will all play out. One thing is certain: Israel needs to be on high alert throughout as its enemies will likely try to exploit the election chaos to weaken the Jewish state.

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