Gantz officially informed the president on Wednesday night that he was unable to form a unity government or minority coalition.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
On Wednesday night, Blue and White’s Benny Gantz informed President Reuven Rivlin that he could not form a governing coalition, which means the nation faces a near-imminent third round of elections in less than one year.
Gantz called the president to deliver the news, prior to a planned televised speech.
The former IDF chief’s concession arrives on the heels of failed unity talks with incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and negotiations with Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beytenu.
Coalition negotiations took place throughout Wednesday as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz faced the midnight deadline to form a government, or else return his mandate to the president.
Gantz had reportedly considered not only a unity government with the Likud and its right-wing bloc, but also a left-wing minority government with outside support from the Joint Arab List.
According to a report in Israel Hayom Wednesday, Gantz, who commanded the IDF as chief of staff for four years (2011-2015), was outmaneuvered by his partner, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. Gantz was reportedly willing to break his promise to voters not to form a coalition with Netanyahu due to potential indictments, but Lapid flatly rejected a unity government with Netanyahu serving first as prime minister in a rotation with Gantz, warning him that such a move could end his political career.
The idea that Netanyahu could serve first but step down in Gantz’s favor to defend himself in court if necessary was put forth by President Reuven Rivlin right after the inconclusive September elections.
Blue and White officials quickly denied the report as “lies,” claiming that their party “is united in its goal to form a national and liberal unity government, and is operating with full coordination between all its members.”
Barring a Netanyahu alliance, the only other option for Gantz appeared to be a minority government with Yisrael Beytenu dependent on the Arab list.
This minority option was not considered viable, however, given that the Arab list is anathema to Liberman, due to its opposition to Zionism on principle, with some Arab MKs openly supporting Palestinian terrorism against Israel.
Liberman has been called the “kingmaker” since the April elections. He met several times with both Gantz and Netanyahu, insisting publicly that a unity government is the only way to go.
With Gantz’s mandate expired, the president could present the opportunity to another MK to form a 61-member coalition.
The other option appears to be Israel’s third round of elections in a one-year time span.