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Gantz, Netanyahu fail to reach power-sharing deal, push Israel closer to 4th election

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A banner depicts Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv, February 17, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The deadline for Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz to form a coalition administration has passed with no power-sharing agreement with his rival Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, raising the prospect of a fourth election in the occupied territories in a little over a year.

On March 9, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tasked Gantz with forming a cabinet after a slim majority of lawmakers endorsed the centrist Blue and White party leader to be prime minister following the March 2 elections.

Gantz, an ex-military chief, held talks with his rightist rival Netanyahu on a coalition administration that would see them rotate the premiership, with the incumbent prime minister keeping the reins for the first 18 months.

Gantz’s 28-day mandate to put together a ruling coalition expired at midnight Monday, but Rivlin extended it for two more days.

The extension came after Gantz and Netanyahu issued a joint statement claiming that they had made “significant progress” in forming an emergency administration to end Israel’s unprecedented political deadlock amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Negotiating teams for Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White party continued their discussions late Wednesday night and into Thursday.

The talks, however, remained deadlocked, with no deal but a joint statement promising a resumption of dialog later on Thursday.

After the coalition talks floundered, Rivlin notified Gantz on Thursday morning that he was giving the mandate to the Knesset.

Over the next three weeks, any Israeli lawmaker who can muster the support of 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members will have a 14-day mandate to form an administration.

If it does not happen, Israel will be forced to go to a new election — its fourth in 16 months.

On Wednesday, Blue and White sources told Channel 12 news that Netanyahu was not interested in making a deal with Gantz as a recent poll showed that Likud party could win a clear majority in case of a fourth election.

Reports say, coalition talks stalled over Blue and White’s opposition to Likud’s demand for more influence over judicial appointments and Netanyahu’s concerns that once he signs the power-sharing deal, the Supreme Court will rule that he cannot serve as Israeli premier with an indictment.

After his mandate expired, Gantz, who is currently Knesset speaker, told confidants that he had no intention of hobbling the High Court.

The Ynet news site quoted Gantz as saying, “I’m not prepared to circumvent the court or embarrass it.”

Netanyahu faces seven counts of three criminal charges: fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000. 

Netanyahu’s trial is scheduled to begin next month, though it is unclear whether the hearing will open then amid the coronavirus pandemic that has so far infected over 12, 500 Israelis and killed 132.


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