Likud demands President Rivlin hand mandate to Netanyahu

The Likud party pointed out that Rivlin had no trouble handing the mandate to Gantz even when he didn’t have a clear majority to form a government.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The mandate of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a government expires at midnight on Monday. President Reuven Rivlin has already announced he will reject Gantz’s request for a 14-day extension.

However, he has also said he won’t transfer the mandate to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, angering the Likud party.

Rivlin has the right to choose what to do with the mandate. He has decided that instead of giving it to Netanyahu, he will deliver it straight to the Knesset, which will have three weeks to pick someone from its ranks to form a government. From past experience, it is unlikely to succeed, increasing the chances of a fourth election.

Rivlin may have made his announcement in order to put pressure on Netanyahu and Gantz to come to an agreement in their ongoing talks to form a unity government. They still have Monday to sign an agreement.

The Likud, however, formally demanded that Rivlin give the mandate to Netanyahu. It  pointed out that the president had no trouble handing the mandate to Gantz even when the latter didn’t have a clear majority to form a government.

Netanyahu has 59 supporters in the Knesset. He requires 61 to form a government. With the disintegration of Blue and White into competing factions, peeling away two Knesset members may be possible.

Likud Ministers Yariv Levin and Yisrael Katz sent a letter to Rivlin insisting on the mandate. “The only candidate who has the possibility of forming a government is the current prime minister, MK Benjamin Netanyahu. This, pay attention, is the only outline for the establishment of a national unity government that’s agreed to by Likud and Blue and White, at the head of which will stand at the start Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

The letter said, “It’s unreasonable and opposed to the will of the voters not to give to Prime Minister MK Benjamin Netanyahu, who stands at the head of the largest faction in the Knesset, the Likud faction of 36 Knesset members, which [in turn] stands at the head of the biggest bloc of parties in the Knesset, the chance to try and form a government. This in particular as the opportunity has ended that was already given to MK Gantz.”

Also turning to Rivlin with a request that the mandate by given to Netanyahu were members of the right-wing bloc, including Yemina, United Torah Judaism, Shas and newly joined Gesher.

“We call on you, president of the state, Reuven Rivlin, to transfer the mandate to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has 59 recommendations – just as you did after the previous elections in September when you passed the mandate to the hands of MK Benny Gantz, who at a time had only 54 recommendations,” the Likud allies wrote.