Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Parliament Speaker Benny Gantz have yet again failed to strike a deal on forming a unity emergency government, regrettably projecting yet another unprecedented extension to Jerusalem’s political deadlock.
After weeks of extensive negotiations -that have proven unsuccessful- a glimpse of hope emerged earlier this week, when both sides agreed to compromise on most of their deep-routed differences, including an iron-clad arrangement on power-sharing which would have secured Netanyahu’s grip on Jerusalem’s seat-of-power for another 18 months. All the while President Reuven Rivlin extended Gantz’s mandate to form a government by 48 hours in order to allow time for hammering-out the final points of contention.
Before those 48 hours began, Gantz held a televised address to the nation, during which he urged Netanyahu to seize the opportunity of establishing a much-needed emergency government, for the purpose of dealing with the ongoing corona-crisis; highlighting his own decision to place the nation’s interests above all others. “Following the last election, a new reality of emergency arose. I faced two options. To drag Israel into a third round of elections, or to act to establish a national emergency government. I chose the path of establishing a government, with which I accepted both political and personal risks. I did not want to disband Blue and White (party); but even when my friends (political allies) decided to do so, I did not waver. I advanced forward, because for me, Israel is before all.”
The newly elected Parliament Speaker further underscored that under the shadow of the corona-crisis, neither he, nor Netanyahu, are able to reign alone. Gantz said, “The emergency situation demanded of all of us to recalculate our paths. Netanyahu understood that he does not have the capabilities to reign alone, and that he needs my help to deal with this crisis. This emergency situation also demanded of me to compromise about my willingness to sit with him (Netanyahu) in a government. This crisis, which is imposed on the entire world, and the state of Israel, does not permit any leader to shut their eyes and ears, and to deal with one’s own ego.”
During the 48-hour mandate extension the negotiating teams reportedly held extensive meetings; yet these efforts ultimately hit a dead-end.
According to sources familiar with the contents of the negotiations, Netanyahu’s representatives raised new demands that aim to prevent the High Court of Justice from intervening regarding Netanyahu’s status, either as Prime Minister or as acting Prime Minister – in light of his pending legal proceedings. These demands were immediately rejected by Gantz, who reiterated that both “Netanyahu and his Likud party know that there are issues that cannot be compromised; first and foremost, protecting the law authorities and Israel’s democracy.”
The mandate to form a government will now go to the Israeli Parliament for 21 days, during which time Parliament Members are permitted to form a majority to recommend a candidate to the President. If no such candidate is proposed, the 23rd Israeli Parliament will be dissolved on the 7th of May, and new elections will be held for the fourth time within just over a year.
It is important to mention that there remains a glimpse of hope for success, as Netanyahu held a phone conversation with Gantz earlier today, during which they agreed to continue negotiating for the purpose of forming a national emergency government.