Israel's Labor Party told President Reuven Rivlin Monday morning that it would not recommend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receive the mandate to form a government as sole prime minister. It also said it would not "betray" Benny Gantz, after Rivlin refused to extend Gantz's mandate as unity government negotiations fell apart.
Labor's statement came after people close to the prime minister reached out to Labor Chairman Amir Peretz and number two on the slate Itzik Shmuli. According to sources in Netanyahu's inner circle, the contact was aimed at testing the possibility of Labor recommending that Netanyahu receive the mandate to form a government.
“We won’t betray Gantz and our camp,” Shmuli wrote in response to a query from Haaretz. “Bibi [Netanyahu] has to decide if he wants to face the coronavirus and its harsh repercussions together or alone. We won’t be the sixty-first vote that allows him to evade justice and harm the rule of law in return for a job.”
On Sunday, Rivlin announced that he will not task either Netanyahu or Gantz with forming a government again and will pass the decision to the Knesset, unless one of the two can garner the support of 61 lawmakers by Monday. If the mandate passes to the Knesset, it will have 21 days to present any candidate with the support of 61 lawmakers.
On Sunday, Likud assessed that the two Labor lawmakers, alongside members of the Derech Eretz faction (formerly a part of Kahol Lavan), were most likely to recommend Netanyahu. After Labor decided to join a unity government led by Gantz and Netanyahu, their poll numbers tanked, indicating that if Israel goes to a fourth election they stand nearly no chance of entering the Knesset.
Labor clarified that they would not lend a hand to this process – which, according to them, aims to help Netanyahu evade justice and damage the rule of law. Labor added that the only way they would support a unity government is alongside Kahol Lavan in the face of the coronavirus crisis.