With a bump of his elbow, Blue & White Party leader Benny Gantz received a mandate from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to try and form a new ruling government coalition, after a prior attempt by Gantz back in September failed.
As Netanyahu struggles desperately to stay in power at least long enough to avoid being prosecuted for corruption charges, the PM, who is presently leading an emergency unity government as Israel struggles to combat the coronavirus outbreak, has skillfully used the present circumstances to his advantage.
However, on Sunday, 61 members of the Knesset voted to recommend that Gantz be offered the opportunity to form the government. To succeed, he will need to win a majority of votes in the 120-seat Knesset. The problem, is that two members of Gantz’s own Blue and White Party said they wouldn’t vote to back him as PM if the Arab Joint List remains part of the coalition.
According to the Jerusalem Post, currently, the only parties willing to join a Gantz-led government are his Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor-Meretz and the Joint List. Legally, 61 MKs must vote for the government at first, even if it ends up being a minority government with less than 61 MKs supporting it.
After the meeting at the presidential palace at noon local time on Monday, a meeting at which Netanyahu was also present to try and convince the president to call for a unity government, Gantz phoned Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Labor-Meretz chairman Amir Peretz and told them that he intends to form as broad a government as possible to meet the significant challenges currently facing the State of Israel. Both Liberman and Peretz agreed to meet him soon. One of Gantz’s greatest political coups was winning the support of Liberman following a falling out between Liberman and Netanyahu.
But when Gantz phoned Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, the chairman of Yamina, and invited him to meet, Bennett turned him down, saying Gantz should join a unity government led by Netanyahu.
During the 28 days he will have to form a government, Gantz will face a near-impossible mission, per Axios. Although he has 61 recommendations, he may not have 61 members of Knesset to vote in favor of his government, this is because two members of Gantz’s own party said they would vote against a government that relies on votes from the Arab Joint List, claiming the organization, which advocates for more representation for Israel’s Arab minority, supports terrorists.
Israel’s new Knesset will be sworn in on Monday, though swearing-ins will take place three at a time because of virus worries. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is reportedly considering a complete European-style shutdown in Israel as the number of Israelis who have tested positive climbs to 250, with four cases in ‘serious’ condition.