It is now up to Netanyahu whether a unity government will be formed

A week has gone by and the Likud (i.e. Netanyahu) seems to be playing the same trick over again.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Monday evening last week, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz managed to surprise even the usually sharp, well-informed Channel 12 political commentator, Amit Segal. The previous week there had been a final printed version of the agreement to form an emergency government between the Likud and Blue and White, ready for signature, but at the last minute the Likud (i.e. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) came up with additional demands for changes that would have undermined the delicate balance attained.
Blue and White was livid, while Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon – Gantz's former partners, who had broken away from him after he decided to enter an emergency government with Netanyahu – must have chuckled, saying to themselves, "We warned him." For many others (including quite a few senior Likudniks), this must have been a "deja vu" reminding them of what they had experienced at Netanyahu's hands. Netanyahu is known to make promises and reach agreements and then make a U-turn without winking.
Everyone, including Segal was expecting Gantz, whose mandate to form a government was about to expire, to warn Netanyahu that if the agreement would not be signed immediately, he would use his power as Speaker of the Knesset to lay on the Knesset table a bill designed to prevent anyone who has been indicted from being called upon by the president to form a government. At least in theory, Gantz still has a Knesset majority to pass such a law in an expedited procedure before the Knesset is dissolved. But Gantz, who considered this option, decided to act otherwise.
Gantz, with a poker face concealing his disappointment and anger, opened a statement to the media (that was addressed to Netanyahu), by saying that Blue and White and the Likud had reached a "fair agreement" and that he hoped that "we shall realize the agreement for the benefit of Israel's citizens... We have no alternative, this is the order of the day. We have reached the moment of truth: it is an emergency government or superfluous elections." Netanyahu responded by inviting Gantz to come over to his residence and sign an agreement that very same night. 
A week has gone by and the Likud (i.e. Netanyahu) seems to be playing the same trick over again. At the time of writing (Sunday night), no agreement has been signed, even though Blue and White insists that all the issues have been closed, and it still is an open question whether it ever will be signed.
Why is Netanyahu playing this game? One could give a wisecrack reply to this question and quote the biblical phrase in Jeremiah (13:23), "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, Or the leopard his spots?" If one prefers a secular quote, one might turn to the reply that the scorpion gave the frog in the famous Russian fable, when the latter asked him why he had stung him, thus dooming both to die: "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."
Putting cynicism aside, though Netanyahu's political bloc strengthened somewhat between the September 2019 and March 2020 elections, it stood at only 58 (before Orly Levy-Abekasis decided to join him). In other words, for the third round of elections running, he is still unable to form a government, unless additional deserters from the Center-Left-Arab parties can be found. This doesn't mean that Netanyahu has given up the dream of forming a narrow government either by finding another two deserters, or by bringing about a fourth round of elections in which he hopes that his bloc will reach 61 MKs or more. 
The option of a unity government, which he will head at least half of the time, is a second best solution from Netanyahu's point of view. It is second best because the price the Likud must pay for it is very high. Such a government, if it will finally be formed will be based on absolute parity between the two sides: Netanyahu's bloc of 59,  while Blue and White comes in with only 15 Knesset seats, in addition to two from what remains of the Labor Party, and the two members of Derech Eretz - MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser. 
It is second best because such a government is unlikely to pass all the legislation Netanyahu wishes for, the goal of which is to delay his trial (that is to open on May 24) until after he is no longer prime minister, or cancel it altogether. It is second best also because it will halt the changes that the political Right wishes to introduce into the Israeli legal system, to the benefit of its ideological goals (such as the annexation of at least parts of Judea and Samaria) and/or Netanyahu's personal legal interests. Finally, it is second best because Netanyahu has got accustomed to running the government as a one-man-show, and this will come to an end if he forms a government with Blue and White.
Some believe that Netanyahu has a problem with a unity government, also because his wife and eldest son are opposed to it, and their opinion carries quite a bit of weight in his decisions.
Since the president decided not to turn to him to form a government after Gantz's mandate ran out, and returned the issue to the Knesset, which has 21 days to select a candidate who can form a government (i.e. has the support of at least 61 MKs), Netanyahu's interest at the moment is apparently to play for time, since at the end of the 21 days (May 7) if, as expected, the Knesset will fail to find a candidate to form a government, new elections will be called, and recent opinion polls predict that Netanyahu and his bloc will gain a clear majority.
However, these predictions are not very reliable. We do not know how and when the current coronavirus health crisis, and the accompanying economic crisis, which is the direct result of the decisions taken by the government (i.e. Netanyahu himself) on how to deal with the pandemic, will end. Many of the people who are currently unemployed, or will find it impossible to save their small or medium sized businesses and go bankrupt, are traditional Netanyahu supporters. Will they continue to support him, or will they lose faith in his crisis management abilities, and start noticing that he much too frequently brags about achievements that do not exist, and makes empty promises that he is unable to fulfill?  Demonstrations in recent days by persons who find themselves in economic straits, and are disappointed by the failure of the government to come up with immediate relief suggest that public opinion might be going in that direction.
One of few attractions to Netanyahu of a unity government at this juncture is that since Israel's economy is currently facing unprecedented difficulties, he would be happy to have Blue and White share in the responsibility of getting it back on track, which is not going to be easy, and will certainly involve many highly unpopular measures,
In the next day or two we shall know what Netanyahu's decision will be. It could go either way.