The deadline for the Knesset to nominate a new Prime Minister came and passed in Israel Wednesday, prompting an automatic third election to try to put together a body that can form a coalition government. Now, lawmakers are trying to move up the automatic date from March 10, 2020, to March 2 to avoid Purim.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud’s leader, and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz failed to get 61 MKs to support their bids for Prime Minister after President Rivlin gave them each a chance to form the government. This triggered a 21-day period that ended Wednesday in which any MK could try to put together a majority government. There were several talks but no deals were made in time.
This is an unprecedented state of affairs for the Jewish state. Now, the race is on to break the deadlock and either allow one side or the other to achieve a majority or to work together to form a unity government.
In a video posted online in the evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Blue and White “wants to hide the fact that they did everything to avoid establishing a broad national unity government that would annex the Jordan Valley, apply Israeli sovereignty on the settlements in Judea and Samaria.
“They tried to do everything to establish a minority government with the terror supporters [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, and they failed at that, too,” he said. “They forced new elections on us. It is unnecessary and in order to avoid it happening again there is one thing to do and that is to win, and win big – and that is what we’ll do.”
Blue and White co-chairman MK Yair Lapid said from the plenum’s stage that the reasons for this election are bribery, fraud and breach of trust, the charges on which Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit seeks to indict Netanyahu.
This state of governmental limbo may seem to favor the left with Netanyahu embroiled in both internal strife within his party as well as criminal charges against him. But the timing may be perfect for him if he can come to a speedy resolution in the criminal matter. It could be what’s necessary to unite conservatives behind him, both in his right-bloc coalition as well as with the electorate.
But if he’s still stuck in legal mud, Blue and White may be able to force a replacement for him in Likud. With the help of Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avidgor Lieberman, they may get Likud to break from their conservative bloc to form a unity government if Netanyahu can be ousted from party leadership.
The next three-and-a-half months will determine much for Israel, the Middle East, and our relationship with our best ally in the region. For now, Netanyahu is holding his power together with threads.
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