Netanyahu May Return Mandate if Gantz Won’t Form Unity Government

Likud Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)
Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP

The Times of Israel reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering “returning the mandate” given to him by President Reuven Rivlin to form a Knesset majority as soon as Sunday should the talks between negotiating teams for the Likud party, headed by Netanyahu, and Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz, end without result. The teams are tasked with hammering out the details of a potential unity government.

Netanyahu was charged by Rivlin on Wednesday night with trying to form a government based on the strength of his pact with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties to negotiate as a bloc of 55 MKs, and given 28 days to do so. Gantz, his rival, heads a bloc of 54 MKs from the center, left and Arab parties, but 10 Arab MKs in that group would not join a Gantz-led coalition. Neither candidate has a clear path to a 61-strong Knesset majority.

Rivlin therefore proposed a unity government in which power would be equally divided and Netanyahu and Gantz would each serve two years as prime minister. Rivlin implied, but did not specify, that Netanyahu would take an open-ended leave of absence when or if he is indicted in one of more of the three criminal probes for which he faces charges, including one count of bribery, pending a hearing. Under the arrangement set out by Rivlin, Gantz, as “interim prime minister,” would enjoy all prime ministerial authority.

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