Why is Netanyahu maintaining the mandate? - analysis

The Prime Minister is still holding on to the mandate, with no end in sight before the October 24 deadline, even though no negotiations have even taken place with any party for 10 days.

By
October 7, 2019 01:50
3 minute read.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the swearing-in ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, the

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the swearing-in ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem October 3, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Last weekend, every daily newspaper led its Sunday edition with a headline that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about to return his mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin.

If true, that would indeed have been big news. After all, following the April election, Netanyahu was so worried about Blue and White leader Benny Gantz being given a chance to form a government that he got the Knesset to disperse itself.

The messages coming from Likud that he was about to return the mandate made sense, because Netanyahu was actively trying to ensure a government would be formed before Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit decides whether to indict him. If the 21 days after Netanyahu and Gantz fail to form a government is the only time a coalition could be built, the prime minister needs to expedite that time as much as he can.

It is now a week later, and Netanyahu is still holding on to the mandate, with no end in sight before the October 24 deadline, even though no negotiations have even taken place with any party for eight days.

So why is Netanyahu still maintaining the mandate?

The answer is that he is waiting for three upcoming news developments.

This first is set to happen after late Monday night, when his criminal hearing ends. Only then can Netanyahu get a sense from his lawyers about how effective they were in persuading Mandelblit to close the cases against him.

It is already relatively clear that there will not be a need to reopen any of the investigations to get more information, which could have significantly delayed Mandelblit’s decision. It is definitely clear in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, which is the only case in which Mandelblit recommended a bribery indictment pending the hearing, and is therefore the case that matters most to Netanyahu’s political future.

The second news development is the bridging proposal that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman promised to present following Wednesday’s Yom Kippur holiday. Liberman will try to bring Netanyahu and Gantz together, and if he rules that Netanyahu should go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office, it would give him a big boost.

The final step is a meeting of the Likud central committee on Thursday night to reinforce Netanyahu’s leadership. The committee will decide that Netanyahu will be the party’s only candidate to form a government during those 21 days, whether the indictment happens or not.

The committee could of course be convened again if there is a particularly bad indictment and public outcry afterward, so this Thursday’s meeting is meaningless. But Netanyahu believes it will quash final hopes in Blue and White that another Likud leader could form a government with them.

The central committee meeting is expected to be a show of force for the prime minister. Sources close to Netanyahu said the mandate cannot be returned until after his political muscles are flexed sufficiently that night.

After that meeting, there will likely be another meeting between Netanyahu and Gantz that is likely to fail. When that meeting will take place is unclear since meetings tend to not happen on Fridays or the eve of a holiday, and it cannot take place on Shabbat or on the following Monday, which is the holiday of Sukkot.

If Netanyahu and Gantz only end up meeting on October 15, the soonest Netanyahu can return the mandate is that same day. If Rivlin gives the mandate to Gantz the following morning, he will have until November 13 to form a government.

The big 21 days would only then begin and overlap the exact time when Mandelblit’s decision is expected.

So while Netanyahu’s hesitancy to return the mandate can be understood, he is taking a big political gamble.


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