Analysis

Israel Election: Gantz Caves, Netanyahu Pushed Aside or Third Election - What Happens Next?

After the president tasked Netanyahu with forming a government, another election seems inescapable, but it's hard to imagine the prime minister giving up chance to form government that easily

President Reuven Rivlin gives Netanyahu the mandate to form a government at the President's Residence, September 25, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Update: Gantz nixes unity talks with Netanyahu

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 42Haaretz

A day after President Reuven Rivlin tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a new government, the solution to assembling it does not appear to be on the horizon. Likud's expected victory never came, and Wednesday night's announcements from the President's Residence looked like an extra step on the way to a third round of elections.

Is there a way to prevent going to the polls again? Haaretz maps out the possible scenarios for the coming month.

Netanyahu announces he is unable to form a government within a week

According to the Basic Law on the Government, the first Knesset member to be tasked with forming a new government has 28 days to do so, after which they can request an extension of up to 14 more days. At any time during this period, the lawmaker can inform the president that they are unable to form a government, and let him give the mandate to someone else.

>> Read more: Key dates: A guide to important movments in Israeli politics over the next three months ■ Israel election results: With indictment around the corner, Netanyahu is at the mercy of the attorney general | Analysis

On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu called a number of ministers and told them – so that it would be leaked to the press – that unless there is a breakthrough with Kahol Lavan, he will inform Rivlin within a week that he is unable to carry out the task.

The advantage of this scenario is that it would pressure Kahol Lavan to be more flexible from the get-go and begin progressing toward a unity government. But it would usher in a period of uncertainty, during which Netanyahu could give up on forming a government.

Netanyahu is cautious about his political moves. It is hard to see how he would give up the chance to form a government so easily, whether it happens within a week or in 42 days.

Kahol Lavan compromises and joins a Netanyahu government

Over the past two days, Benny Gantz has seriously considered reneging on his campaign promises and joining a government with Netanyahu at the helm until the premier's indictment is filed, if it is filed.

Yair Lapid is vehemently opposed to this option and has managed to convince Gabi Ashkenazi as well. Lapid says that Netanyahu cannot be trusted and that any compromise with him would mean the electoral destruction of Kahol Lavan. Lapid can be expected to stick to his guns when it comes to his refusal to serve under Netanyahu.

Nonetheless, there is still a small possibility that Gantz will change his mind, that there is a more conciliatory faction within Kahol Lavan that wants to make a deal and set to work rather than being dragged into another election campaign.

Lieberman changes his mind and joins a Netanyahu government

If Avigdor Lieberman changes his mind and decides to join the right-wing bloc, Netanyahu can establish a government within the hour. As of right now, the chance of this happening is almost zero.

Lieberman’s confidants say he is totally committed to removing Netanyahu from power. His reasons may be unknown, but his hatred is burning. Lieberman is aligned with Lapid, who holds a similar position to that of Lieberman within Kahol Lavan: No to Netanyahu and no to the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Amir Peretz joins a Netanyahu government

Over the past day, people close to Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz – Histadrut labor federation chairman Arnon Ben David and Pini Kabalo, the head of the Labor faction in the Histadrut – posted on social media that Peretz must begin negotiations with Netanyahu. On his part, Peretz continues to tweet against the idea, and is standing his ground on not joining a Netanyahu government.

Either way, the possibility of this happening seems unrealistic. Even if Peretz tries to join the government, Labor MKs Merav Michaeli and Omer Bar-Lev would not support it, and there still would not be enough votes for Netanyahu to form a coalition.

Likud ousts Netanyahu

Kahol Lavan hopes that because another round of elections would only hurt Likud, party officials would initiate primaries with the goal of unseating Netanyahu. This scenario would only play out if the party's back was against the wall, making it harder to evaluate the chances of it happening.

The prime minister's position in his party is, in the meantime, unyielding. And even if he is challenged in another primary, chances are he would easily beat any other candidate.

Netanyahu gives in and lets Gantz lead the rotation

The likelihood of this happening is scant. Netanyahu's calculations are based on the idea that so long as he occupies the prime minister's seat, it is harder for Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to put him on trial. Netanyahu cannot give in, and certainly not right before Mendelblit decides whether or not to indict him.