Gantz Plans Snap Move to Swear in a New Government Within Two Weeks

Gantz working on securing endorsements from the Joint List and Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu ahead of next week's round of consultations with President Rivlin

Benny Gantz, right, and Avigdor Lieberman leave a meeting in central Israel, March 9, 2020.
Moti Milrod

Benny Gantz intends to form a government and have it sworn in by March 23, a source familiar with the Kahol Lavan leader's plan told Haaretz on Tuesday. He aims to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu three weeks after Israel's election, which ended with no decisive victory for either of the two main political blocs.

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To that end, Gantz is working on securing endorsements from Arab-majority alliance Joint List, which has 15 Knesset seats, and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, with seven seats. Together with Kahol Lavan's 33 seats and Labor-Gesher-Meretz's seven, Gantz could secure a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

Representatives on behalf of all eight parties elected to the Knesset are set to meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday to tell him which candidate they are backing for prime minister. Gantz, according to the same source, believes that Rivlin would task him with forming a government after that round of consultations.

The new Knesset is set to be sworn in on Monday, when Kahol Lavan plans to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud with a Kahol Lavan lawmaker, Meir Cohen. A successful transition would signal that Gantz has the support of enough lawmakers who would back his proposed government.

Gantz has concluded that Netanyahu has ruled out a unity government and is planning to dissolve the Knesset, a move that would deepen Israel's year-long political stalemate and set off a fourth election cycle since 2019. Therefore, Gantz plans to propose a new government within two weeks, rather than use up the 42 days the law allows for to form a government, assuming he is tapped by Rivlin after Sunday's round of talks with party representatives. 

A longer coalition formation process would give Netanyahu time to stick wedges between Lieberman and the Joint List and foil Gantz's plan, Gantz assessed, according to the same source.

Meanwhile, Kahol Lavan has decided not to make any more public statements about two of its right-leaning lawmakers, Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, who expressed opposition to a government that would be backed by the Joint List. The party now intends to focus on reaching agreements with Lieberman and the Joint List's leadership, hoping that Hauser and Hendel would accept it eventually.

As Gantz's party scrambles to secure a breakthrough in coalition talks, senior Kahol Lavan member Yair Lapid said Tuesday he prefers a minority government endorsed by Arab-majority alliance Joint List to a fourth election cycle.

This comes after Gantz spoke to the leaders of three of the four factions that make up the Joint List on Monday, and is set to meet with representatives of all four factions, including the hawkish Balad, on Tuesday.

Speaking with Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, senior lawmaker Ahmad Tibi and MK Mansour Abbas, Gantz also repeated intentions to "prevent a fourth election." 

Odeh tweeted after the meeting: “We stick to our goal of replacing Netanyahu's legacy, and it starts by respecting the united voice of the Arab public and our Jewish partners.

Earlier on Monday, Gantz met with Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman, praising the session as a productive first round of talks.