Gantz rejects Netanyahu’s conditions for forming gov’t, Likud expected to return mandate

Since Gantz opposed the terms Netanyahu set for a unity coalition, Likud’s mandate to form the next government will likely be returned to President Rivlin, who will then give Gantz the same opportunity.

By Associated Press

Israel’s Blue and White party rejected what it said were demands from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a unity government under his leadership with the prime minister’s right-wing and religious allies.

After talks with Netanyahu’s Likud, the Blue and White party said it “made clear from the outset” that it would reject those conditions, underscoring the daunting task facing Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Likud sources say that Netanyahu is expected to return his mandate to form a government to Israeli President Rivlin before Sunday evening, when the holiday of Rosh Hashana begins.

President Rivlin will then appoint Blue & White party leader Benny Gantz with the task of forming a government. Gantz will be given 28 days to form a coalition of 61 Knesset members but is also expected to fail.

The Blue and White party, led by former army chief Benny Gantz, won 33 seats, closely followed by Netanyahu’s Likud, with 32. But neither has enough support to assemble a 61-seat majority coalition, and they are fiercely divided over the leadership and makeup of any unity government.

Netanyahu says he is negotiating as the head of a 55-seat bloc that includes his allies, while the Blue and White says it is only negotiating with the Likud. Gantz has said he will not sit in a government led by Netanyahu while the prime minister faces corruption allegations. A hearing is set on the matter next week.

Netanyahu is not required by Israeli law to step down if he is indicted but will face heavy pressure to do so.

President Reuven Rivlin tapped Netanyahu to form the next government earlier this week after failing to broker an agreement between the two deadlocked parties. Netanyahu has up to six weeks to resolve the impasse.

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who emerged as kingmaker after his party won eight seats, has called for a national unity government that does not include religious parties, Netanyahu’s traditional allies.

If Netanyahu fails to form a government, Rivlin can then ask Gantz to try. If he doesn’t succeed, Rivlin can select another legislator or set in motion what would be the third elections in under a year.

The Knesset voted to dissolve itself after April elections when Netanyahu was unable to form a majority coalition, leading to this month’s vote, which was itself unprecedented.