Benny Gantz will not be given extension to form a coalition government, Israel’s president says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will not extend the mandate of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a coalition government.

Gantz’s mandate expires on Monday at midnight. On Saturday night he requested a two-week extension, usually a formality, in light of delays in reaching an agreement caused by the coronavirus crisis and the Passover holiday.

Rivlin announced Sunday that “in the current circumstances” no extension will be granted, a statement from his office said.

The statement said that Rivlin made the decision after also speaking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the Likud party, “who did not confirm in their conversation that the parties are close to signing an agreement that would lead to a unity government.”

At issue is who will control the Judicial Appointments Committee, and thus be able to delay the appointment of judges. Netanyahu had initially agreed to cede the control of that committee to Gantz, but ahead of Passover reopened it for negotiation. In recent years under Netanyahu, his justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, appointed hundreds of conservative judges on all levels of the judiciary. The right-wing parties had said they would not follow Netanyahu into a unity government without retaining that control.

According to the statement, if an agreement is not signed by midnight Monday, and the number of lawmakers who recommended each leader does not change from a month ago, the task of forming a government will return to the Knesset for the next three weeks, where lawmakers can come together to recommend a new candidate to form a government. That person would then have 14 days to form a coalition government. This means that Netanyahu would not automatically be given the mandate to form a government.

If before midnight Monday, according to the statement, “the circumstances change and the two sides come to the president with a request for an extension in order to help them come to an agreement, the president will reconsider his decision.”

Blue and White responded that attempts by the negotiating teams to form a unity government “are still ongoing.”

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