Binyamin Netanyahu (left) and Benny Gantz. (US State Department; Reuven Kapochinsky/Israel Resilience Party)

Israeli PM, Rival Gantz Appeal to President in Last-Ditch Push for Unity

In a dramatic last-minute change of plans, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin extended Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz’s mandate to form a coalition government after Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu jointly appealed for him to do so at one minute before midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, when Gantz’s mandate was to have expired. The political rivals told Rivlin that they had made significant progress toward the formation of an emergency unity government. Rivlin’s office said the president extended Gantz’s mandate “on the understanding that they [Gantz and Netanyahu] are very close to reaching an agreement.” Rivlin had earlier said he would not extend Gantz’s mandate, nor would he task Netanyahu with forming a government. Rather, he planned to throw the mandate back to the entire Knesset, allowing any of its 120 members to try to garner the support of at least 60 of their colleagues to form a government. This would have started a two-week countdown that, in all likelihood, would have ended in dissolution of the Knesset and the scheduling of an unprecedented fourth election after the previous three had ended inconclusively, failing to produce a workable government. Gantz and Netanyahu set to meet again on Tuesday morning and are expected to finalize a coalition deal. “Netanyahu, this is our moment of truth. It’s either a national emergency government or, God forbid, a fourth election which would be expensive and, in this crisis period, gratuitous,” Gantz said late on Monday.

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