Gantz Asks Extension on Mandate to Form Gov't, Says Deal With Netanyahu Close

Kahol Lavan chairman asks for two more weeks to finalize an agreement for a unity coalition after talks reportedly collapsed last week

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Kfar Maccabiah, February 19, 2020
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Kfar Maccabiah, February 19, 2020Credit: Moti Milrod
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz asked for an extension of his mandate to form a governing coalition on Saturday, telling President Reuven Rivlin that he needed more time to reach a final agreement for a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud.

Israel has been operating under the auspices of a caretaker government for over a year as three national election campaigns went undecided.

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On Wednesday, Gantz said unity government negotiations were halted because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands to interfere with the work of the Judicial Appointments Committee, which is the body that appoints judges to Israeli courts.

On Saturday, the Likud party tweeted that Netanyahu had called on Gantz to meet with their negotiations teams "out of good faith and national responsibility to form a unity government as soon as possible."

Requesting two more weeks to continue coalition talks, Gantz wrote to Rivlin that he thought the two sides were close to finalizing an agreement "to form a national reconciliation government that will work on behalf of all of the country's citizens, preserve its institutions, deal with the coronavirus challenge and begin the process of economic recovery" in the wake of the virus' decimation of the labor market.

In his letter to Rivlin, Gantz also explained his decision to link up with Likud. "The political, medical and social crisis brought me to the decision that even at a heavy political and personal price, I will do all I can to form a government together with the Likud party," he wrote. "I decided that at this time, it was right to postpone important accomplishments and ambitions in order to do what is necessary."

Likud is demanding to add a provision to the unity agreement that the committee will operate in coordination with a Likud minister representing the party in the panel.

Kahol Lavan is opposing the demand, while insisting that the committee continues to operate as it always has, without the need to coordinate its moves with any minister who is part of the panel.

The justice minister, who chairs the committee, has the power to prevent it from convening if an agreement is not reached about the judges he seeks to appoint.   

Likud officials are concerned it would be perceived by the right-wing camp that they are surrendering to Kahol Lavan’s demands regarding the judicial system and are looking for ways to please their electorate.

Kahol Lavan has repeatedly threatened over the holiday that if an agreement is not signed, Gantz, who serves as Knesset speaker, will advance the bill preventing a prime minister from serving under indictment.

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