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President to task Gantz with forming government

President Reuven Rivlin will give the task of forming the government to Blue and White chairman MK Benny Gantz tomorrow, the Presidente announced Sunday night.

The announcement follow’s Rivlin’s meetings with the heads of the Knesset political parties Sunday.

Gantz received the recommendation of 61 MKs, a bare majority, while incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received the recommendation of 58 MKs.

Gantz’s Blue and White party received 33 Knesset seats in this month’s elections, three less than the 36 the Likud received.

The Blue and White chairman received the backing of the Joint Arab List, Labor-Meretz, and Yisrael Beytenu. The Joint Arab List is not expected to agree to join any coalition, but it may support a minority coalition from the outside.

Nevertheless, Rivlin said he would invite both Gantz and Netanyahu for talks on Sunday night, in an apparent bid to encourage a unity government between the two largest parties.

Nevertheless, Rivlin said he would invite both Gantz and Netanyahu for talks on Sunday night, in an apparent bid to encourage a unity government between the two largest parties.

Meeting first with representatives of Likud, the largest party, Rivlin repeatedly expressed support for a unity government, saying that it was the will of the voters and warning against the possibility of fourth elections if the deadlock wasn’t broken.

The first option would be a half-year “emergency” government led by Netanyahu, in which Blue and White and Likud would receive an equal number of cabinet posts. For six months, the Likud leader would agree to refrain from firing any Blue and White ministers, and in exchange, MKs from the centrist alliance would be barred from supporting the toppling of the government in a no-confidence vote.

Alternatively, Netanyahu said he was prepared to discuss the idea of forming a four-year government, during which he would serve for the first two years as premier, with Gantz as his deputy, before they would switch places for an equal period of time.

Hours earlier, the Jerusalem District Court announced that the premier’s trial would be delayed by two months until May 24 after Justice Minister Amir Ohana declared, in the middle of the night, a 24-hour “state of emergency” in Israel’s court system “as part of the national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

The decision means that courts can only sit for urgent hearings on arrest and remand orders, administrative detention orders, offenses under legislation “relating to the special emergency” and certain interim relief in civil matters. Netanyahu’s case does not fall within the short list of exceptions.

Header: President Reuven Rivlin and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz meet at the President’s Residence on November 15, 2019 (Mark Neiman/GPO)