President Reuven Rivlin formally gave Netanyahu four weeks to form the government after a meeting at the President’s Residence with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz failed to bring about a breakthrough.
“Netanyahu has more of a chance to form a government,” Rivlin said in a speech alongside Netanyahu.
Rivlin said he gave the mandate to Netanyahu, because he received 55 recommendations from MKs, compared to Gantz’s 54. He called upon parties to stop disqualifying each other. He lamented that a unity government was not formed.
He added that a third round of elections must be avoided. “The people doesn’t want additional elections. The challenges necessitate the establishment of a government in Israel. If a government is established, they will pay the price and, if not, the citizens of Israel will pay the price.”
Netanyahu also spoke upon receiving the mandate, asserting that a unity government was the only possible option for forming a government.
Netanyahu already has a bloc of 55 MKs from his Likud and his allies in Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism. He would need Yisrael Beytenu, Labor-Gesher or Blue and White to join to form a government. All have repeatedly refused to do so.
“My inability to form a government is slightly less than that of Gantz,” Netanyahu said in accepting the mandate.
Netanyahu called on Gantz to form a government led by him, citing security, diplomatic and economic reasons and raising the prospects of both war with Iran and a peace process with the Palestinians led by US President Donald Trump.
If Netanyahu fails, Rivlin could give the mandate to Gantz or to another candidate in Likud. He could also tell Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that there is no candidate. If that happened, there would be 21 days in which any candidate could try to get 61 MKs together and form a government.
Gantz reiterated after Netanyahu was given the mandate that his party would not enter a government led by Netanyahu while a possible indictments is waiting in the wings.
Sources close to Rivlin said on Tuesday that he would likely only appoint a candidate to form a government next Wednesday after the Rosh Hashana holiday. But after no progress was made in initial talks between Likud and Blue and White, Rivlin changed his mind.
Under the law, Rivlin has seven days after receiving the results to name someone to form a government, but he opted to move ahead without delay, according to a statement from his office earlier on Wednesday.
Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government, with a possible two-week extension.
Just in case there would be a breakthrough that would lead to coalition talks, the Likud coalition negotiating team came to the President’s Residence. The Blue and White team did not come. They said they were prepared to come quickly if there would be a breakthrough, but that they had low expectations from Netanyahu.
At 7:23pm Rivilin left Netanyahu and Gantz to talk alone for half an hour, but their talks did not succeed.
Channel 12’s Amit Segal predicts that Israel is likely headed to a third national election in a single year.
If 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers nominate another candidate to form a government, that candidate will be given a chance. But that’s unlikely, too, and Israel could be facing a third round of elections in January or February, he says.
As Netanyahu and Gantz met at the President’s Residence, a Likud source placed the blame for the failed effort to jumpstart talks on a unity government on Blue and White’s No. 2, Yair Lapid, who has a rotation agreement with Gantz to replace him as prime minister after 2.5 years.
“The sole blame for the failure of the contacts toward unity are stuck is because Yair Lapid is prepared to drag the country to additional elections, just not to see Benny Gantz as prime minister,” the source told the Ynet news site.