President Rivlin rejects Gantz’s request for mandate extension

Rivlin made the decision “after talking to Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu as well, who did not confirm that the two are close to signing an agreement that will lead to a unity government.”

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin rejected Benny Gantz’s request for a 14-day extension of his mandate to form a government early Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t clear what Israel’s president would do after the Blue and White leader requested a two-week extension on Saturday evening. In Israel, the president has the prerogative to grant an extension or not.

Rivlin, however, will not transfer the mandate to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the Likud party had wanted. Instead, he will send the mandate directly to the Knesset, which can choose from among its members someone whom it decides is capable of forming a government. It is highly unlikely anyone other than Netanyahu or Gantz will be chosen.

According to a presidential statement, Rivlin made the decision “after talking to Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu as well, who did not confirm that the two are close to signing an agreement that will lead to a unity government.”

Blue and White said, “Unity efforts are also ongoing at this time by the negotiating teams to complete the legislative appendices required for an agreement that was drafted last week. We made it clear to the Likud that we will not allow any violation of the rule of law and the basic principles presented by us.”

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 have caused Netanyahu to pull back from a unity government. 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.