Gantz faces near impossible task

Netanyahu and Gantz Photos: Shlomi Yosef and Tamar Matsafi

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has the chance of becoming Israel's post-Netanyahu leader, but Likud is confident that he will fail.

A rare political process starts in Israel this morning. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who received a mandate from the president following the election on September 17, has gone through two rounds of coalition negotiations without result. On May 29, the man credited with a magic political touch completed 42 days of negotiations in which he failed to accomplish this basic political task. Five months and another election later, on October 21, he informed the president that he had failed to form a government at the second opportunity.

This situation is without precedent in Israel's history. The political tangle itself is not unprecedented. In 1990, Shimon Peres received a mandate to form a government, but failed to do so within the initial 28 days provided for by the law. He was granted an extension of time, but in the end the mandate was transferred to Yitzhak Shamir. That situation was, however, different. It was not a case of receiving a mandate after an election, but after Peres brought about the downfall of Shamir's government.

In 2008, Tzipi Livni, then head of the Kadima party, failed in her attempt to form a government. She received a mandate to do so not after an election, but after the resignation of Ehud Olmert as prime minister. Her failure precipitated an early election, in which her party received 28 Knesset seats while Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu received 27 seats. Despite that, President Shimon Peres called on Netanyahu to form a government, and he has served as prime minister continuously since then.

Now, Blue and White's coalition negotiation team will invite each of the political parties to meet it. "We will present to each of them the foundation principles of a Blue and White-led government, and ask them to subscribe to them. All of them will be invited - including Habayit Hayehudi-National Union," a Blue and White source told "Globes".

Can Gantz succeed?

For nine months, Israel has not had a duly formed government, and Blue and White head Benny Gantz has been given an opportunity to lead the transition after the Netanyahu period. But although he succeeded in the election and persuaded more Israelis to vote for him than for Netanyahu, Gantz does not at present have the numbers to form a stable coalition supported by a majority in the Knesset (61).

The idea of a transitional government relying on external support by the Joint Arab List looks like a problematic and lame way forward. In fact it very much looks as though such an idea served Gantz as a rod and Netanyahu as a way of frightening people in the past few weeks rather than being a serious plan.

Without such a bizarre structure, though, how can Gantz proceed? The possibilities are limited, almost non-existent. In Likud, they are sure that Gantz will fail and that within 28 days the political players will have no choice but to glean 61 Knesset votes to recommend Netanyahu. But if Netanyahu is capable of enlisting the support of 61 Knesset members, why didn't he do it while he held the mandate?

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 22, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Netanyahu and Gantz Photos: Shlomi Yosef and Tamar Matsafi
Netanyahu and Gantz Photos: Shlomi Yosef and Tamar Matsafi
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