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April 12, 2020 9:10 pm

Israel’s President Says He Won’t Extend Gantz’s Mandate to Form Government, Will Send Task to Knesset If No Coalition by Tomorrow

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at the memorial ceremony for the late Israeli President Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on Sept. 19, 2019. Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he won’t extend Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a government, saying the job will instead be given to Israel’s parliament if a coalition agreement is not finalized by tomorrow.

A statement from the president’s office on Sunday said that if Blue and White and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party “do not sign an agreement by midnight tomorrow, and if the number of recommendations for each candidate does not change, the task of forming the government will return to the Knesset and a period of 21 days will begin during which Knesset Members can form a majority to recommend an agreed candidate to form a government, who would have 14 days to do so.”

“If, during the remaining initial time given to Gantz to form a government, the circumstances change and the two sides come to the president with a request for an extension in order to help them come to an agreement, the president will reconsider his decision,” the statement added.

In a series of dramatic political developments over recent weeks, Gantz jettisoned the Yesh Atid and Telem factions of his party in order to join a unity government with Netanyahu.

A government seemed imminent last week, but talks abruptly collapsed over the issue of judicial appointments.

Following the announcement of Rivlin’s decision, the Likud called on the president to give the mandate to Netanyahu, saying, “The Likud movement reiterates its request for President Rivlin to hand over the mandate to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the head of the Knesset’s largest party who has 59 recommendations.”

The party said this should be done “just as President Rivlin did after the previous elections in September, when he gave Prime Minister Netanyahu’s mandate to MK Gantz when Gantz had only 54 recommendations.”

Likud added, “it would be unreasonable and contrary to the will of the voter not to give Prime Minister Netanyahu, who heads the largest 36-member faction, the possibility of forming a government.”

The heads of other right-wing and religious parties who back Netanyahu issued an almost identical statement of their own.

The Blue and White party said that unity government talks were once again underway after being stalled for days, but added, “We made it clear to the Likud that we will not allow any violation of the rule of law and the basic principles that we presented.”

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