In First, Rivlin Denies Gantz’s Request for Extension, Leaves Coalition Deadline for Monday

Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz (Yonatan Sindel / AFP / Getty)
Yonatan Sindel / AFP / Getty

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.

“This isn’t a negotiation, it’s a farce,” the Hebrew-language Ynet news site quoted senior sources in the party as saying.
According to a statement from Rivlin’s office, Gantz and Netanyahu were no closer to forming a unity government.

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.

Much of the impasse surrounds the matter of annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as Gantz’s demands for ministerial portfolios. In a statement, Yamina called on Blue and White to drop its demand for the Justice Ministry and “allow annexation of all settlements to begin immediately.”
“Gantz, there’s no shame in giving in. As someone who heads a faction of 17 seats against a bloc of 59, your demands are illogical and illegitimate by any democratic logic,” Yamina said.
If Gantz and Netanyahu fail to sign a coalition deal by the Monday night deadline and no other MK drums the support of 61 of the 120 MKS in that time, the mandate to name a candidate will return to the Knesset unless Rivlin chooses to heed to right-wing bloc’s call to pass the mandate to Netanyahu. That candidate will then have 14 days to form a government.
Failure to do so will result in yet another election – Israel’s fourth since April 2019.

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