Benny Gantz has until November 20 to assemble a coalition. He was tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a government after Netanyahu failed to do so following general elections in September, which left both Blue and White and Likud short of a governing majority with allied parties.
The Blue and White party leader hasn’t given up on attempts at a minority government backed by the Arab parties, but both parties share insurmountable differences.
While Blue and White threw its full support behind the targeted killing of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror chief Baha Abu al-Ata and the fighting that ensued, the Arab-majority Joint List party members held angry protests, calling the operation a “war crime.”
The power sharing deal by Rivlin
Blue and White party co-leader Yair Lapid strictly opposes power-sharing deal, an idea of President Reuven Rivlin whereby Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for half the term followed by Gantz. The proposal would see Netanyahu take a leave of absence from the position if and when he is indicted in three pending corruption cases.
The party’s #3 Moshe Yaalon and #4 Gabi Ashkenazi are also currently unsatisfied with the assurances they are getting that Likud would honor such an agreement.
All four Blue and White co-leaders met Friday with Avi Licht, the former deputy attorney general, after hiring him to explain in detail the legal ramifications of Netanyahu being charged and taking a leave of absence. The party’s strategic adviser, Shalom Shlomo, was also present. Likud, meanwhile, claims that what is hindering negotiations are the disagreements within Blue and White.
Blue and White is also seen as hesitant to come to agreements with Likud shortly before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce an indictment against Netanyahu — a declaration which could come within 10 days.
The power sharing deal stalled when Netanyahu wouldn’t commit to not seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Gantz reportedly demanded that Netanyahu step down if Mandelblit announces a decision to indict the premier.
Netanyahu replied that he would not step down until the trial begins, a potential delay of many months. Rivlin suggested a compromise: that Netanyahu step down when the indictment is formally filed some months after Mandelblit’s announcement.
Gantz did not like Rivlin’s proposal because of what he saw as a potential loophole: that Netanyahu may try to escape indictment by asking the Knesset to confer parliamentary immunity on him. Blue and White has said a unity government with Likud could be formed “within an hour” if Netanyahu steps down.
Sources close to Netanyahu have insisted that giving up his right to seek immunity would be tantamount to surrendering his right to a legal defense. The two previous rounds of voting in April and September failed to give either party a clear path to a majority coalition.
If Gantz indeed fails to form a coalition, a 21-day period will start in which a minimum of 61 of the 120 Knesset members can decide to back any MK to serve as prime minister. Failing that, a new election must be held.