Is Israel heading to a 4th election?

With the collapse of talks last week, it’s no longer clear that a unity government will be formed, opening the possibility for yet another round of elections.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The political establishment was described as “tense” by Israel Hayom since Blue and White leader Benny Gantz requested on Saturday night a 14-day extension to build a governing coalition. That request was rejected by President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday.

On Monday at midnight, Gantz’s mandate ends.

The Likud wanted the mandate transferred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Instead, Rivlin will send the mandate to the Knesset to decide what to do. 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.

It appeared a unity government would be formed last Monday but by late afternoon talks had collapsed. By all accounts, the Likud and Blue and White were on the verge of signing an agreement. However, the Likud balked at handing over all power to choose Supreme Court judges to Blue and White.

Blue and White protested that the Likud was reneging on an earlier agreement. Likud officials say they never had agreed to concede on the issue of judges.

Israeli weekly Makor Rishon reports that another issue may be causing Netanyahu hesitation in inking a deal with his rivals. According to the deal, Netanyahu will serve as prime minister first. After 18 months, Gantz will step into the role.

However, the paper says Netanyahu fears that he will be pushed out by the Supreme Court the moment the deal is signed. Petitions are already being prepared by various interested parties that will be submitted to the High Court arguing that a prime minister under indictment shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the role, the paper reports.

The Supreme Court has twice rejected hearing a petition to reject Netanyahu given the corruption charges he faces. It reasoned that such a petition was premature as a government hadn’t been formed, leaving open the possibility that it would hear petitions at a later time.

Israel’s Supreme Court has long been accused by right-wing politicians of being an activist court with left-leaning views. Its recent behavior in forcing former Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein to hold a vote for his replacement has further reinforced this view.

Netanyahu’s allies at the time accused it of interference in the workings of parliament and eroding the separation of powers.