President Rivlin Denies Gantz's Request for Extension to Form Government

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Gantz and Rivlin at the President's Residence, March 2020
Gantz and Rivlin at the President's Residence, March 2020Credit: Kobi Gideon / GOP

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin notified Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz on Sunday that he will not grant him an extension in forming a government.

Gantz told Rivlin on Saturday that he needed more time to reach a final agreement for a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud.

The president "made this decision after also speaking to Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not confirm [he and Gantz] are close to signing an agreement that would lead to a unity government," a statement from Rivlin read.

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Gantz's Kahol Lavan party said in response that the efforts to reach a unity deal "are continuing even this very moment," and that "Gantz told Netanyahu when they spoke that he is committed to the agreements between them and is ready to move forward with them at any place and at any time… to form a national emergency government as the people of Israel want and need." 

According to the Rivlin, if Netanyahu and Gantz do not sign an agreement by midnight Monday, "the mandate will be returned to the Knesset and a 21-day period will begin in which Knesset members will be able to form a majority for recommending an agreed-upon candidate." This candidate will have 14 days to try to form a government.

Israel has been operating under the auspices of a caretaker government for over a year after three national elections resulted in indecisive results.

Netanyahu wins another supporter

In another development, Gesher party lawmaker Orli Levi-Abekasis, who ran on a left-wing slate together with the Labor and Meretz parties, called on Rivlin Sunday to task Netanyahu with forming a government. 

"There is only one way to get out of this maze, and that is to give Netanyahu the mandate, because only he has a chance of forming a government," she wrote on Facebook.

A short time later, Netanyahu responded on social media, saying: "Orli, welcome."

After the March election, Orli Levi-Abekasis broke away from Labor and Meretz because she opposes a Gantz-led government that would rely on the votes of Arab party members. 

High Court petition rejected

A number of public figures petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday claiming that that Rivlin should not be allowed to task Netanyahu with forming a government in light of the three criminal indictments on corruption charges that are pending against him.

This is the third time that such a petition has been filed with the court, which rejected it out of hand up to now as being premature. This time, too, the petition was rejected, with the court stressing Netanyahu hasn't been tasked yet with forming a government.

The petitioners in the case include former Shin Bet security service chiefs Ami Ayalon, Yuval Diskin and Carmi Gillon as well as Uzi Arad, a former head of the National Security Council.

Netanyahu's Likud party has taken the position up to now that the court has no jurisdiction to decide on his fitness to form a government with indictments pending against him. Although the high court deemed a ruling on the petition premature in the past, it rejected the Likud position and stated that "the issue relates to the principle of the rule of law, the integrity of elected officials and public trust in government institutions …."

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