Likud, Blue and White pressuring each other ahead of Monday deadline

Gantz submits request for two week extension to his mandate to form gov't

President Rivlin meets with Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz about forming an emergency unity government due to coronavirus (photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
President Rivlin meets with Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz about forming an emergency unity government due to coronavirus
(photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
With the coalition negotiations still stalled, senior Likud ministers have began ramping up the pressure on President Reuven Rivlin not to extend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s mandate beyond his Monday night deadline.
At the same time, Gantz announced that he has already requested the extension from Rivlin, telling the president that the sides were close to an agreement but needed extra time to secure it.
Negotiations between Blue and White and Likud have stumbled however over conflicts regarding control of the judiciary committee and the selection of judges, as well as a timeline of the annexation of West Bank settlements.
Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last met on Monday, although they spoke by phone on Wednesday afternoon after the latter called the Blue and White leader.
On Saturday night, Netanyahu issued a statement to the press calling on Gantz to meet with him that evening at the prime minister’s residence “out of a good will and a sense of national responsibility for establishing a unity government as soon as possible.”
Blue and White responded with a tetchy message, saying it would continue with efforts to build a national unity emergency government to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, “protect the rule of law and prevent fourth elections,” saying it would do so “through formal channels and not through the media.”
In his letter to Rivlin, Gantz wrote that that the political and health crises had led him to take decisions which had cost him personally and politically in order to establish a unity government.
“We have held intensive contacts to establish a government. Practically speaking I think we are close to signing an agreement, and this requires an additional period to reach a final deal,” he said.
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz however issued a statement to the press addressing Rivlin directly calling on him to give Netanyahu the opportunity to form a government if Gantz has not succeeded by Monday night at midnight.
Katz said the country was in need of a stable government due to the coronavirus epidemic, and said that Netanyahu had the best chance of obtaining one.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz made similar comments, saying that since Gantz and Netanyahu had already agreed that Netanyahu would go first in a rotation agreement there was no point delaying the handing of the mandate to Netanyahu.
Although Gantz requested an extension from Rivlin, it is far from clear what he will decide.
The president has three options: he may grant the extension, decide to hand it straight to Netanyahu, or even skip Netanyahu and pass the mandate direct to the Knesset which would dramatically shorten the time frame before fourth elections become legally mandated.
One potential weapon remaining in Gantz’s arsenal is that of the legislation submitted before the Yesh Atid - Blue and White - Telem split which would prohibit an MK under indictment from serving as prime minister, and from anyone serving more than two terms as prime minister.
This legislation could theoretically still be passed on Monday in the Knesset but would cause a massive political storm and could expedite fourth elections amidst the coronavirus epidemic.