'We Are Facing Dark Times': Rivlin Returns Mandate to Form Gov't to Knesset

After both Gantz and Netanyahu failed to form a coalition, any Knesset member backed by 61 lawmakers could be tasked with forming coalition, with lawmakers having 21 days to nominate a candidate

President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 21, 2019.
Emil Salman

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday officially returned the mandate to form a governing coalition to the Knesset after both Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so.

On Wednesday Gantz announced he was unable to form a government, hours before his midnight deadline for negotiations.

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After two failed rounds of unity talks, the first led by Netanyahu immediately after the September 17 election and the second by Gantz, any Knesset member with the backing of at least 61 lawmakers would be tasked with forming a coalition. Lawmakers have 21 days to nominate a candidate.

"This is the first time in Israel's history that we face such a situation," Rivlin told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein while returning the mandate to the parliament.

"This miserable outcome came after a second election cycle, which was forced on Israel's citizens after the 21st Knesset dissolved itself," the president said.

Netanyahu and Gantz both failed to form a governing coalition. What happens now?

“This means that, as the law states, that starting today and for the next 21 days, the decision upon whom to confer the task of forming a government is in the hands of the Knesset members. And here I want to address each and every one of the lawmakers: This is a dark time in Israel's history," Rivlin said.  

"These disruptive politics must stop. Your political fate is not more important than the fate of the old woman lying in the hospital; the children with special needs; the victims of violence in the Arab society; the residents of the south, Jews, Arabs, ultra-Orthodox and secular, who need protection, and of [battered] women who need shelter," Rivlin said.

"During this two-day period, there mustn’t be blocs or parties; you must act with accordance with your conscience and answer only one question: 'What is my duty to the State of Israel?' I wish you luck," Rivlin said. 

On his part, Edelstein urged the public to do everything possible to form a government. "I turn to involved citizens, to party activists, to everyone who cares: Tell your Knesset representatives in every way possible and with a clear voice 'We don’t want another election. We want you to sit down, talk and compromise for us.'"

The Knesset Speaker added that "I'll do everything in my power so that in the next three weeks we'll succeed forming a broad coalition, a strong government that will go back to working for Israel's citizens." Edelstein voted in favor of dissolving the Knesset after Netanyahu failed to form a government following the April 9 election.