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Israel’s Gantz Receives Mandate to Form Government

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday tasked Blue and White list head Benny Gantz with forming the next government. It came after the entire Joint List – a collection of primarily Arab parties – as well as the right-wing Israel Beiteinu party chose to recommend that Gantz be given the first 28-day opportunity to cobble together a coalition. The development was surprising given that the three lawmakers from the Joint List’s Balad faction, considered its most extreme wing, were on the fence about recommending a candidate who identifies as a Zionist. Gantz has been exploring the possibility of forming a minority government supported by the Joint List from the outside, though such a union would be unstable, if even possible, due to major policy differences between the primary players. Accordingly, Rivlin on Sunday night held an “emergency” trilateral meeting with Gantz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to push the creation of a so-called unity government, with a rotating premiership, in order to end over a year of political gridlock and tackle the country’s coronavirus outbreak. According to media reports, Rivlin suggested that Netanyahu serve the first year of a 4-year term and then step aside for Gantz to assume the mantle of leadership. While Gantz has vowed not to sit in a government led by a prime minister under indictment, the empowered Blue and White head, with mandate in hand, may reassess the idea. However, such backtracking would assuredly be viewed as a betrayal of the Joint List and could cause internal upheaval that, ultimately, results in Blue and White fracturing. As neither Gantz nor Netanyahu has a clear path to forming a majority coalition, some are already speculating about when a fourth snap election might be held.