Netanyahu’s mandate ends in failure, blames Bennett

PM invests efforts in preventing Lapid from getting mandate.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference with Health minister Yuli Edelstein (unseen) at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on April 20, 2021.21 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference with Health minister Yuli Edelstein (unseen) at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on April 20, 2021.21
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government for the third time in two years, as his mandate from President Reuven Rivlin ended on Tuesday night.
Netanyahu had until midnight to ask Rivlin for an extension.
Instead he released a statement three minutes before the deadline blaming Yamina leader Naftali Bennett "Due to Bennett's refusal to promise to only form a government with the Right, which would have definitely led to the formation of a government with additional MKs joining, the prime minister has returned the mandate to the president," the statement said.
Rivlin's spokesman issued a statement saying: "Shortly before midnight, Netanyahu informed the President's Residence that he was unable to form a government and so returned the mandate to the president." The statement said that on Wednesday morning, Rivlin would  contact the parties represented in the Knesset regarding the continuation of the process of forming a government.
His only political statement all day until then was a message on Twitter to Bennett and MK Ayelet Shaked to form a government with him, instead of Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
“Naftali, Ayelet, listen to Rabbi Druckman,” Netanyahu tweeted, along with a clip from religious Zionist Rabbi Haim Druckman telling Channel 12 that a government with left-wing parties would harm Israel on legal issues, education and construction in Judea and Samaria.
“Bennett must say clearly I won’t form a left-wing government that will be destructive,” Druckman said. “The prime minister is not all of the ministers.”
While Netanyahu did not speak publicly until just before the deadline, he worked behind the scenes to harm chances of Bennett and Lapid forming a government together. He sent Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar to fast track bills supported by Bennett and opposed by Lapid in order to deepen the rift between them.
Both Lapid and Bennett took steps on Tuesday to try to win enough support to receive the second mandate from Rivlin. Bennett tried to persuade Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, the Religious Zionist Party, New Hope and the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party to recommend him to Rivlin. Lapid already had the backing of 45 MKs, which could be bolstered by endorsements from New Hope, Ra’am and part of the Joint List. 
All indications from the President’s Residence on Tuesday were that Rivlin would choose Lapid to form the government over Bennett even if the Yamina leader had more support, because the Right already had 28 days to form a government and failed.
Rivlin will hold consultations with relevant party heads by phone on Wednesday, and then present his mandate as early as Wednesday night and as late as Friday morning.
If the mandate is presented on Wednesday, the deadline to form a government would be June 2.
There were reports on Tuesday that Shas and UTJ had spoken to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz about seeking a mandate to form a government. Gantz responded that he was committed to supporting Lapid.
“Today I spoke with all of the pro-change party leaders and asked all of them to recommend that MK Lapid be given the mandate to form the government,” Gantz said in a video message he released on Tuesday night. “The Israeli people have taken one blow after another: a pandemic, unemployment, ugly politics, loss of faith in leadership, and deep polarization. The red line is behind us. We can work everything out within a matter of hours. It is our duty to form a government as swiftly as possible for the sake of the State of Israel and all of its citizens.”
Gantz lashed out at Netanyahu, urging him to stop playing political games.
“As he’s accustomed to doing, Netanyahu is still teasing the public directly and through his proxies in the Knesset and beyond, hoping to gain time with yet another maneuver and another trick,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu, I call upon you: if Israel is important to you, stop the scheming. Stop the spin-doctoring. You’ve dragged Israel through four elections, you’ve failed again to form a government. It is now your duty to think of the country, to look honestly at reality and concede your failure. You cannot keep lying to everyone – not to your political partners and certainly not to the people you’re supposed to be working for: the people of Israel. For their sake, stop damaging and destroying Israeli democracy, stop polarizing and tearing our society apart from the inside.”
Gantz concluded with a message to Bennett about not falling into Netanyahu’s trap, and to back a mandate for Lapid.
“You must announce today that you are joining a pro-change government, and that you support the presidential mandate being granted to MK Yair Lapid,” Gantz said. “You are a person of values. Don’t let Netanyahu trample you.”