JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has given Israel’s parliament 21 days to form a majority government. If no parliament member can muster support from at least 61 seats in the 120-member body, the country will be forced into its fourth costly and divisive election.
The mandate came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz missed a midnight deadline Wednesday to form an emergency government to battle the coronavirus and prevent a fourth election.
The two rivals were given a 48-hour extension by Rivlin on Monday to complete negotiations for a power-sharing deal. Although the deadline passed with no deal, both sides agreed to continue their discussions.
The power-sharing deal would force Netanyahu and Gantz to make considerable compromises because neither men have enough support on their own to form a majority government in parliament. The deal would form a unity government between the rivals and would force Netanyahu to rotate the prime minister position with Gantz, allowing both men to serve as premier for a designated amount of time. Gantz would be forced to serve in a government with Netanyahu, something he vowed never to do because of the criminal charges against him.
Netanyahu and Gantz appeared close to agreeing to a power-sharing deal, but Israeli media reports the negotiations were stalled by a last-minute demand from Netanyahu to have more influence over judicial appointments.
If the talks fail and no one else in parliament can form a majority government by the end of the 21 days, the parliament will be forced to dissolve itself and the country will go to its fourth consecutive election in 18 months.
Last month’s elections, just like the ones last September and April, were inconclusive. However, Gantz had a slight majority over Netanyahu and was given the first opportunity to build a government.
During that time, he pushed legislation that would have disqualified Netanyahu from serving as prime minister in the future because of the corruption charges against him.
However, Gantz faced a new hurdle when his alliances within parliament began to splinter and the coronavirus worsened. He then decided to abandon his Blue and White Party, and accepted an offer from Netanyahu to form a unity government to deal with the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is facing trial after being indicted on charges of bribery, breach of trust, and fraud in several corruption cases. The premier denies any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a witch hunt.