by: Kate Norman
Thursday, 21 November 2019 | Hours before his deadline to form a government coalition was up, prime minister hopeful Benny Gantz phoned Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to inform him of his failure to tackle what had been deemed mission impossible.
This plunges Israel into unprecedented territory: a 21-day period where any member of Knesset (Parliament) with a majority backing can vie for the premier position. Pending another failure to forge a majority-backed government, the Jewish state will delve even further into unexplored territory: a third round of elections in a year.
In his concession speech last night, former military chief of staff Gantz insisted that he “turned every stone” and “sifted through every grain of sand” to form a government, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for blocking his attempts to compromise.
President Rivlin called on the MKs (members of Knesset) from the onset to set aside their personal differences and form a unity government with Netanyahu and Gantz each serving a term as prime minister in order to spare the people of Israel from their current circumstance: an uncertain future under a transitional government.
“Forming a government is not only the wish of the people,” Rivlin said at the swearing in of the 22nd Knesset on October 3. “More than ever, in times like these, it is an economic and security need the likes of which we have not known for many years.”
In Israeli elections, the people vote for a party, not a person. After the elections are over, the president selects a candidate, usually—but not always—from the winning party to attempt to form a government based on a majority coalition—requiring a 61-seat majority of the Knesset’s 120 seats.
The candidate selected by the president has 28 days to round up 61 seats and form a majority coalition for a functioning government. If that candidate fails to do so, the president will select another candidate to attempt the same task.
Though Gantz’s Blue and White Party won one more seat than Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the September elections, Rivlin tapped Netanyahu to take the first crack at forming a coalition since the prime minister had more backing in the Knesset than his opponent.
Netanyahu was gridlocked, however, by several nonnegotiables from different players in the king-making game. Gantz refused to sit in a government with Netanyahu, who has been accused of corruption. Netanyahu refused to give up the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox allies who sit in his block, which Gantz’s Blue and White Party required for a secular centralized unity government.
During his attempt, Gantz explored the options of forming a unity government or a minority government supported by political factions who would not sit in a coalition with the former IDF chief—notably, the Joint List of Arab parties.
Gantz sat down yesterday to meet with party heads for unity talks, notably meeting with Yisrael Beytenu Party head Avigdor Liberman, who was arguably responsible for sending Israel to the last round of elections.
Netanyahu failed to stitch together a coalition during the last round in May when Liberman stymied him by refusing to join unless they could agree on terms for drafting ultra-religious Jews into the military. Netanyahu, who is backed by ultra-Orthodox parties, refused, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself and the country was plunged into the last round of elections.
Liberman created another stone wall on Wednesday when he announced that he would not support Gantz’s attempts to patch together a minority government or a unity government co-headed by his rival Netanyahu.
“There is no chance,” Liberman declared yesterday just before the clock ran out on Gantz. “We will not join either a limited right- or left-wing government or a minority government. Whatever sort of government that would be, it would not survive and would not be able to function to do what is needed for the country.”
The next step is where the government currently stands: a 21-day window for 61 members to put forth any MK (member of Knesset) as a candidate for prime minister. Otherwise, the country heads to another election. Both Netanyahu and Gantz have another opportunity as either could potentially be nominated by a majority, though the possibility seems unlikely given the political gridlock.
The window closes on December 11 for any candidate to be put forth by the majority—then the country heads into round three in March 2020.
Posted on November 21, 2019
Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 21, 2019)
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
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