Gantz runs out of time: Israeli president Rivlin transfers mandate to Knesset

After unity talks failed, Rivlin informed Gantz that his time to form a government had ended.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

In a roller-coaster week of ups and downs in coalition negotiations, the verdict finally came in on Thursday morning – they failed. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took the mandate to form a government from Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White, and handed it to the Knesset.

“I hope that the Knesset members will be able to formulate a majority in such a way that they can bring together a government as quickly as possible and avoid a fourth election campaign,” Rivlin said.

Gantz’s mandate lasted for 28 days and officially ended on Monday. After last-minute talks appeared to be progressing, Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jointly requested from Rivlin that he extend the mandate until Wednesday at midnight. Rivlin granted the request.

The last-ditch effort failed to lead to a unity government, however.

Blue and White officials blamed Netanyahu, saying that he wants a fourth election. Likud officials replied that these accusations were “without foundation.” They said, “The prime minister is working to establish an emergency unity government while protecting the interest of the national camp and with concern that the two sides will honor the agreement in an equal manner.”

Blue and White says the only way to force Netanyahu to agree to form a government is by reviving legislation against him in the Knesset, which would be used as leverage. Shortly after the March 2 elections, Blue and White submitted three bills targeting Netanyahu which would make it illegal for any parliament member to serve as prime minister who faced indictment. Netanyahu faces indictment in three corruption cases. The trial is to begin at the end of May.

Blue and White says the legislation could pass if Yoaz Hendel and Zvika Hauser would lend their support. The two MKS broke from Blue and White just after the elections.

The Likud expressed anger earlier in the week when Rivlin announced he intended to give the mandate to the Knesset and not to Netanyahu.

The Knesset may choose from any one of its members the majority of whom believes can form a government in three-weeks’ time. However, in practice what has happened when the mandate is handed to the Knesset is that the country quickly descends into new elections. It is therefore more likely that a fourth election is in the offing.

Despite the end of Gantz’s mandate, Israel’s public broadcaster reports that the two sides are still negotiating.