Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given the job of forming a new Israeli government by President Reuven Rivlin, after the opposition rejected any national unity government that allowed Netanyahu to lead it.
The meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz has concluded. In a short time, the responsibility for forming the government will be given to Benjamin Netanyahu, after which President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu will give remarks.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) September 25, 2019
The center-left Blue and White party of Benny Gantz won 33 seats to the conservative Likud’s 32 seats in the elections last week — the country’s second last year after the small, secular nationalist Yisraeli Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman refused to serve in Netanyahu’s coalition with religious parties. The election produced a stalemate in which neither the left-wing bloc around Blue and White (54 seats) nor the right-wing bloc around Likud (55 seats) had enough seats to form a governing majority in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset. Lieberman held the balance and insisted on a unity government that included both of the two major parties. Netanyahu agreed, and offered Gantz a power-sharing deal. He reiterated that offer today upon being tasked with forming a government.
But Gantz refused to serve under Netanyahu in any capacity — even temporarily as part of a rotating prime ministership — because Netanyahu is facing indictment for charges that critics say are partisan and meritless.
Gantz’s refusal may also be strategic. Knowing that Netanyahu will struggle to build a coalition with Lieberman, and that the other, smaller parties (left-wing parties and Arab parties) are likely to refuse to govern with him, the possibility exists that Netanyahu will fail to form a coalition by the 28-day deadline (with a two-week extension).
In that case, Gantz himself might have a chance to form a government — or the country would go to elections for a third time this year, an unprecedented situation that Rivlin has urged all parties to work together to avoid.
It is also possible that Gantz has miscalculated by rejecting unity, denying his voters a chance to be represented in the next government, and giving Netanyahu a chance to save both his government and his career by trying again.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.