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Gantz receives mandate to form government

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, right, presents Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with the mandate to form a new Israeli government, Oct. 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will officially ask Benny Gantz to form a government, with a third election in less than a year looming.

It will mark the first time in more than a decade that someone other than Benjamin Netanyahu will attempt to form a government.

On Monday, Oct. 21, the prime minister returned the mandate to Rivlin, saying he was unable to form a majority government coalition.

Rivlin was scheduled to give the mandate to Gantz, head of the Blue and White faction, on Wednesday evening at the president’s office in Jerusalem, a statement from Rivlin’s office said.

Gantz will have 28 days to try to form a government coalition. If he fails, Knesset members have 21 days to advise Rivlin of their support for another lawmaker to form a government, and Rivlin could task a third person with the mandate.

If that fails, Israel will go to another national election, in March. 

Netanyahu could not form a government after voting in April, leading to a new election in September and the latest effort to make a coalition. 

Netanyahu and Gantz failed in their attempts to form a unity government.

On Tuesday, the director-general of the president’s office, Harel Tubi, contacted the heads of all the factions in the Knesset to inform them that Rivlin planned to transfer the mandate to form the government to Gantz.

The factions “all remain committed to their original positions,” the statement said.

After Rivlin signs the letter of appointment on Wednesday evening, he and Gantz will make public statements.

Along with the mandate, Gantz will receive a security detail from the state.

In a video message posted on social media, Netanyahu said that he put “all efforts” into bringing Gantz to the negotiation table and forming a “broad national unity government.” He said that Gantz refused to meet with him or to send his negotiating team and time again.”

“The time of spin is over, and it is now time for action,” the Blue and White party said in a statement. “Blue and White is determined to form the liberal unity government, led by Benny Gantz, that the people of Israel voted for a month ago.”

“The time has come for Blue and White,” Gantz tweeted.

Rivlin had attempted to help Netanyahu and Gantz arrive at a national unity government, with a formula that included a rotating premiership, which would have seen Netanyahu take a leave of absence from the office if he is indicted in one of the three corruption cases against him. The leaders could not agree, however, on who would serve first in such a rotation.

Netanyahu also insisted on bringing his right-wing coalition in to the government with him, which was not acceptable either to members of Gantz’s faction or to Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has been holding out for a liberal unity government.

Blue and White is expected to require preconditions for joining its government, including support for public transportation on Shabbat and support for revoking legislation that forces businesses to close on Shabbat, Haaretz reported.

The Arab Joint List’s four parties could help Gantz hit the coalition threshold, but they have not pledged to join any ruling majority. Netanyahu called the possibility of a so-called minority government led by Gantz with the Arab parties’ support from outside the coalition “an anti-Zionist act that endangers our security.”

Blue and White earned 33 seats in the September elections to the Netanyahu-led Likud Party’s 32. However, parties representing 55 seats in the Knesset recommended to Rivlin that Netanyahu be tasked to form a government to 53 for Gantz, leading to Netanyahu receiving the mandate. Liberman did not commit his party’s eight seats to either candidate.

Sixty-one seats are required to form a majority ruling government coalition.

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