Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz met with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on Wednesday.
According to a statement issued by the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, Gantz initiated the meeting "in light of recent security challenges and regional developments." The army added that the meeting would be held with the approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In September Gantz met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and with President Donald Trump's outgoing special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt. The three discussed various issues, including the importance of U.S.-Israel relations, the region's security challenges and efforts to promote the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
With one week left until the expiration of the 28-day period given to Netanyahu to form a government, the general assessment is that President Reuven Rivlin will not give the prime minister a two-week extension, but instead transfer the mandate to Gantz, who would then have 28 days to try to form a coalition.
Although Netanyahu told Rivlin when they met three weeks ago that he planned to return the mandate to the president within days if talks reached a dead end, he hasn’t done so. Likud sources weren’t sure whether Netanyahu would drag things out until the last minute or return the mandate to Rivlin in the coming days.
According to some Likud sources, Netanyahu is holding onto the mandate for two reasons. The first is an effort to “extort” a promise from Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman that he will not support a narrow left-wing coalition made up of Kahol Lavan, Labor and Democratic Union, with the external support of the Joint List. To date Lieberman has not dismissed such a possibility, although in Likud they have difficulty believing he would be a party to this.
The second reason is to try to align the political schedule with Netanyahu’s legal schedule. Netanyahu is hoping Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will remove the charge of bribery from the draft indictment in Case 4000 – the Bezeq-Walla case – which Likud sources say would increase the pressure on Kahol Lavan to agree to a rotation arrangement – either while Gantz attempts to form a government or during the 21 days following it, in which the Knesset is permitted to propose its own candidate for prime minister.
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