coalition conundrum

Gantz handed mandate to build governing coalition

Koby Gideon/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin meeting with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on March 15, 2020.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tasked Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with forming the next government on Monday. In a short round of consultations with the political parties in the 23rd Knesset at the president’s residence on Sunday, Gantz received the recommendations of 61 members, including Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party and the Joint [Arab] List, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got only 58. Gesher MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who ran with Labor, declined to recommend either candidate.

Why it matters: This marks the first serious attempt to dethrone Netanyahu. With the Arab MKs united in their support of Gantz — something that didn’t happen after the previous elections — the Blue and White leader now has a majority in the Knesset to receive a vote of confidence and a solid bloc to remain as prime minister, though likely as head of an unstable government, if he can succeed in creating one. 

What happens next: Gantz has 28 days in which to build a coalition government. In the event unity talks with Likud fail, Gantz will aim to create a minority government with overt Arab support and hopes to broaden it once Netanyahu is out of office. To do so, Gantz will have to overcome internal opposition from his own party, and hope Lieberman doesn’t pull a last-minute maneuver. If the two major parties engage in serious talks over a national-unity government, and Blue and White agrees to sit in a government led in its first phase by Netanyahu, Gantz would return his mandate to Rivlin, who would then task Netanyahu with forming a unity government. In the meantime, Blue and White is seeking a vote to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with MK Meir Cohen, and pass legislation that would prevent a prime minister under indictment from receiving the mandate to form a government. 

Truce talks: Rivlin hosted Gantz and Netanyahu for an hour-long meeting at his residence on Sunday evening. At the end of the meeting, the two sides agreed that their negotiating teams will meet to continue the discussions. Rivlin welcomed both leaders’ “willingness to do so.” Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu offered Gantz the opportunity to join an “emergency government” for six months to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, or to form a four-year rotational coalition with Netanyahu leading during the first two years. 

Buzz on Balfour: Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which was slated to begin tomorrow, has been postponed for at least two months after the Justice Ministry placed the courts under a state of emergency over the coronavirus.

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