TEL AVIV – Israel on Sunday once again found itself embroiled in a political deadlock after President Reuven Rivlin denied Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s request for a 14-day extension to form a government.
Rivlin said he would return the mandate of selecting a candidate for prime minister to the Knesset if Gantz should fail to meet Monday’s midnight deadline. It was the first time an Israeli president has denied such a request.
In a move that shocked the nation late last month, Gantz agreed to enter unity talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the basis of a rotating premiership.
However, by Sunday, the negotiations were at an impasse and Blue and White leaders accused Netanyahu of showing no interest in signing a coalition agreement.
However, Likud released a statement saying that the party remained optimistic after the two leaders had a good conversation.
“Netanyahu called Gantz on the phone once again and reiterated his suggestion of forming a unity government, and would like the two sides to sit down for talks,” Likud said in a statement.
According to the statement from Rivlin, he would consider an extension only if the two jointly approached him for one.
The right-wing bloc lost no time in urging Rivlin to transfer the mandate back to Netanyahu, who currently has 59 recommendations from the 120-seat Knesset including one from ex-Gesher head Orly Levy-Abekasis, who defected from the left and on Sunday declared her backing of Netanyahu for the premiership. The right-wing bloc, comprised of the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Yamina parties, reasoned in a joint statement that the president had done the same for Gantz after the September elections when he had only 54 recommendations.