Gantz fails to form a Government

What happened: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz informed Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin last night that he had failed to form a government.

  • Gantz said: “Over the past few weeks we have made great efforts toward forming a broad, liberal unity government, exactly as the citizens of Israel chose. A government that will serve everyone – religious and secular, Jews and Arabs. Those who voted for Blue and White and those who did not. But forming a government is not just the technical task of connecting the fringe sectors into a majority. Forming a government is an ethical and moral mission, a historical mission.”
  • Benjamin Netanyahu said he was willing to hold immediate talks to form a unity Government.

Context: Israel now enters a 21 day period where any member of Knesset, (including those who have tried and failed) can present the signatures of 61 MKs to the President and form a government.

  • Gantz’s efforts to form a grand coalition largely failed because Netanyahu refused to discuss the Likud alone joining a coalition, insisting that it had to include the entire right-wing/ ultra-Orthodox bloc. Netanyahu also insisted that he serve first as Prime Minister in a rotation arrangement with Benny Gantz.
  • Israeli media have also reported that the Attorney General has reached a final decision whether or not to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases and could announce his decision within days.

Looking ahead: This afternoon President Rivlin will inform the Speaker of the Knesset that for the first time in Israel’s history, no candidate was able to form a government and the process enters its final 21 days. If a candidate who has the support of 61 MKs is found, he/she can request to the President to grant them permission to form a government, and will then have 14 days to try and form it. If no request is presented to the President by midnight Wednesday 11 December, the Knesset will dissolve and new elections will be held, most likely on 3 March 2020.

  • Opinion polls have suggested that a third election would not break the deadlock with most parties likely to win a similar number of seats to the September election.
  • If Netanyahu is indicted then he would be facing a criminal trial. This prospect could lead some in Likud to challenge his suitability to lead the party into another election.

There is also legal uncertainty as to whether a party leader who has been indicted can be asked by the President to form a governing coalition. This is certainly an issue that could be challenged and tested in the courts.

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