Mar 15, 2020 - World

Netanyahu rival Gantz to receive mandate for forming Israeli government

Benny Gantz

Benny Gantz. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The leader of Israel's Blue and White party Benny Gantz has won recommendations from 61 members of the Knesset, paving the way for him to receive the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to form a new government after Israel’s third elections.

Why it matters: The fact that Gantz managed to secure 61 recommendations means that Rivlin by law has to grant him the mandate. This will allow Gantz to take control of the Knesset, appoint the speaker from his party, control the main committees and start pushing legislation that could prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government due to his corruption indictments.

The big picture: The coronavirus crisis has further destabilized the Israeli political system.

  • Netanyahu, who is heading an interim government, took several extreme measures due to the health crisis — including shutting down the courts and making it impossible for his trial to begin on Tuesday.
  • The Jerusalem district court announced it would postpone the trial until May 24.

In the last few days, Netanyahu has called on Gantz to join an emergency government or form a unity government in order to combat the coronavirus crisis.

  • Netanyahu’s proposal included him staying on as prime minister for the next two years while his trial is underway.
  • Gantz and his party claimed Netanyahu’s proposal was a nonstarter, deeming it a political trick intended to prevent Gantz from receiving the mandate from the president.

Between the lines: Gantz secured the mandate after the Arab Joint List recommended him to Rivlin. This was a historic move by the Arab Israeli party that many view as a sign that the Arab minority, which turned out to vote in high numbers in the last elections, wants to further integrate into society and have a stake in the government.

  • Gantz also won the support of Avigdor Lieberman — the leader of a right-wing party who quit Netanyahu's government and party after a personal clash and is now pushing to oust the prime minister.

What’s next: Rivlin is expected to give the mandate to Gantz on Monday at noon. Rivlin summoned Gantz and Netanyahu to his residence Sunday evening to try and mediate the formation of a unity government to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

  • Monday is also the swearing-in of the new Knesset. Gantz is planning to use his majority to oust the current speaker from Netanyahu's Likud Party, Yuli Adelstein, and replace him with Meir Cohen from Blue and White, thus controlling all legislation.

But, but, but: In the 28 days he will have to form a government, Gantz will face a near-impossible mission.

  • Although he has 61 recommendations, he may not have 61 members of Knesset to vote in favor of his government.
  • This is because two members of Gantz’s party said they will vote against a government that relies on the votes of the Arab Joint List. It is unclear if Gantz will manage to convince them to change their minds.
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