Blue and White leader Benny Gantz failed to form an emergency government for Israel despite an extended deadline to do so. As midnight struck on Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin officially pulled the mandate he had given Gantz to pull 61 MKs together, prompting a three-week period in which anyone in the Knesset could make an attempt to get a majority.
But this is really just an unofficial extension for Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hammer out an emergency government plan. The two have claimed to be close to a deal for several days, one that would unite the two largest parties and allow a rotation in the Prime Minister’s office. Two of the final points of contention that remains unresolved is a proposal that would allow an indicted leader to be Prime Minister and control over judicial appointments. Netanyahu was indicted last November on corruption charges.
To get to this point, Gantz had split from some of his center-left coalition members to try to work with Netanyahu. It cost him dearly as Blue and White is now splintered, but joining with the conservative bloc led by Netanyahu’s Likud Party seemed to be the only viable option. Gantz claimed the coronavirus crisis prompted him to make the move, but leftist MKs considered it a huge betrayal.
The call by Rivlin for the Knesset to deliver a majority mandate doesn’t change much in the current dynamic. Netanyahu and Gantz are still the players holding most of the cards. If they can hammer out deal that doesn’t cause more defections from either side, they still have an opportunity to avoid a fourth election in a little over a year. If they cannot, current polling shows Likud would likely gain a few seats while the splintered Blue and White would plummet, perhaps even below their current status as the second biggest party.
“I hope that the Knesset members will be able to form a majority in such a way that a government can be formed as soon as possible, to prevent a fourth round of elections,” Rivlin wrote in his formal withdrawal of the Gantz mandate.
Without the coronavirus crisis, an unprecedented fourth election would have been extremely unpopular. But the presence of the coronavirus means election results will be unpredictable at best. The vast majority of Israelis want a resolution now.
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