Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (center) strives for unity between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. (Courtesy)

Israeli President Rejects Gantz’s Request to Extend Mandate to Form Government

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has rejected a request by centrist leader Benny Gantz for a two-week extension to form a government. Gantz’s 28-day mandate is due to expire at midnight between Monday and Tuesday. The Blue and White party chief has scant hope of establishing a Center-Left coalition, and Rivlin reportedly made his decision after speaking with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, who informed him that the sides remained far apart on a unity government – the president’s preference. In a statement, Rivlin said that unless things change before the midnight deadline, he would send the mandate to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, where lawmakers would have 21 days to agree on a colleague they’d entrust with forming a government. That lawmaker would then have two weeks to do so. While the Likud won a plurality of votes in Israel’s March 2 election, Netanyahu’s right-wing/religious bloc did not earn a majority in parliament. In his formal request to Rivlin for an extension, Gantz cited delays in negotiations due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Passover holiday. He added that he remained committed to joining forces with Netanyahu due to the “health and social crises… even while paying a heavy political and personal price.”

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