Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Benny Gantz asked on Saturday for additional time to try to form a government, to end more than a year of political deadlock, reports Reuters.
However, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday denied the request, deepening the country’s political deadlock.
Israeli political commentators said that Rivlin’s decision, announced in a statement from his spokesman, made the prospect of a fourth national election, after inconclusive ballots in April and September 2019 and last month, more likely.
Benny Gantz’s 28 day mandate to form a government ends tomorrow and Rivlin, as expected, has informed him that he won’t get an extension as the 61 MKs who originally endorsed him 4 weeks ago no longer back him, after he agreed to join a Netanyahu government. 4th election beckons.
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) April 12, 2020
A 28-day mandate to put together a governing coalition, following an inconclusive March 2 election, expires on April 14. Gantz, an ex-armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, asked President Reuven Rivlin for a 14-day extension to the mandate.
Gantz had run on a promise not to serve in a government with Netanyahu, citing the prime minister’s indictment on corruption charges. Netanyahu denies those charges.
But in a reversal that dismayed many of his supporters, Gantz said the coronavirus crisis had made a national emergency government with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party an imperative.
“The political, health and social crisis have brought me to the decision that even at a heavy political and personal price, I will do all I can to establish a government with the Likud,” Gantz wrote in a letter to the president, published by his party.
— @palestinechron (@PalestineChron) January 21, 2020
Rivlin gave no immediate word on whether he would grant more time to Gantz, who in his letter said the two political rivals appeared close to a final agreement.
According to Israeli media reports, the parties have already agreed on a power-sharing deal in which Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for 18 months, after which Gantz would take over.
However, on April 7, Gantz said that he is still willing to form a “national emergency government” with the Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu, but “not at any cost”.
Israel has held three inconclusive elections since last April.
— @palestinechron (@PalestineChron) April 9, 2020
On March 26, Gantz became the country’s new Speaker of the Knesset (Parliament), as Israel teetered on the brink of a constitutional crisis following the abrupt resignation of former Speaker Yuli Edelstein a day earlier.
The announcement of Gantz’s candidacy quickly dismantled the Blue and White party. Feeling betrayed by Gantz’s decision, top party members Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon decided to break away and join the opposition.
With more than 10,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 101 deaths, Israel’s tight restrictions on movement aimed at curbing the coronavirus spread have forced many businesses to shut down and have sent unemployment rates soaring to about 25%.
(Palestine Chronicle, MEMO, Social Media)