Rivlin to delay granting mandate after talks start badly

Decision to coincide with Netanyahu hearing

President Reuven Rivlin has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz shake hands at memorial ceremony for former president Shimon Peres (photo credit: ELAD QUEEN)
President Reuven Rivlin has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz shake hands at memorial ceremony for former president Shimon Peres
(photo credit: ELAD QUEEN)
President Reuven Rivlin started his consultations toward the formation of the next government by saying that he wanted to do it as soon as possible, but after negotiations on a unity government failed to make progress on Tuesday, sources close to him said he had changed his mind.
The earliest time it would be legal for Rivlin to grant the mandate to form a government would be immediately after the results of the September 17 election become official Wednesday at 11 a.m. Following the April 9 election, Rivlin did not wait and granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the right to form a government immediately.
But this time, Rivlin will be taking his time and meeting with Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for the second time in three days on Wednesday night. Sources close to the president said they expect Rivlin to only grant the mandate on the final day to do so – next Wednesday.
“There is no decision, but there is an understanding that this would be the most reasonable day,” a source close to Rivlin said.
Reasons for the delay include the fact that six weeks was not enough time for Netanyahu to form a government last time and the many upcoming Jewish holidays. Postponing granting the mandate will take next Shabbat and two days of Rosh Hashanah, which would have been dead time, out of the count.
Next Wednesday is also the date of Netanyahu’s long-awaited criminal hearing, so if Netanyahu is granted the mandate, he will have to go between Rivlin and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit that day. Rivlin’s delay also tightens the overlapping political and legal timetables, making it more likely that a potential Netanyahu indictment could happen before a new government is formed.
One idea that was reportedly floated in the first Netanyahu-Gantz meeting Monday night was that Netanyahu would form the government and then hand over the reins to Gantz for two years after a year or an indictment, whichever comes first. Whoever leads Likud after that would be prime minister for the final year of the four-year term.
Blue and White denied a KAN report on Tuesday night that the party has given up its veto on serving in a Netanyahu-led government, as long as it would be part of a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Representatives of Likud and Blue and White held their first coalition talks on Tuesday at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel. A joint statement issued by the two parties said the meeting was professional and had a good atmosphere, but that the two sides disagreed about whether Likud was representing only itself in the meeting, or its bloc of 55 MKs on the Right.
“Blue and White is coming to the negotiations with an open mind and heart,” Gantz wrote on Twitter after the meeting. “But it is important that everyone know: We will not relinquish our principles or our ideological partners. There is still a long road ahead, but in the end, I hope it will to the establishment of a good government that will serve the interests of the state and put its citizens first.”
Blue and White’s demands in the coalition talks include passing the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill, public transport on Shabbat, civil marriage and implementing an agreement on egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Oded Forer met on Tuesday with representatives of Blue and White in what was seen as an attempt to coordinate strategy. But party leader Avigdor Liberman denied that on his Facebook page.
“I want to make clear yet again that Yisrael Beytenu is not coordinating with Blue and White, Likud or the Pirate Party,” Liberman wrote. “Our only obligation is to our voters.”
Yamina MK-elect Naftali Bennett expressed hope in an Army Radio interview on Tuesday that a broad unity government could be formed that would have an equal number of MKs on the Right and Left and would include his party.
“We trust the prime minister to keep his promises to the right-wing parties,” Yamina head Ayelet Shaked said.
Sources close to Rivlin disclosed on Wednesday morning that if there is no progress in Wednesday's evening meeting between Netanyahu and Gantz, he could already give the mandate to form a government tonight to Netanyahu.
The source added that it was also possible that Rivlin could wait until after the Rosh Hashana holiday and give the mandate next Wednesday "we are getting ready for any possibility," the source said.