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Impasse May Force 3rd Israeli Elections

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has concluded two days of consultations with representatives of all of the political parties elected to Jerusalem’s 22nd parliament, the Knesset. The Israeli head of state is now deliberating over the crucial decision of whom to task with forming the next government: Prime Minister and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, or Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz. Ahead of making his final determination, President Rivlin will hold three-way consultations at his residence this evening with both Netanyahu and Gantz.

The parties which recommended Netanyahu add up to a total of 55 mandates, including 31 from Likud, nine from Shas, eight from United Torah Judaism and seven from Yamina. By contrast, Gantz won the recommendation of 57 mandates, with 33 from his own Blue and White faction, followed by six from the Labor-Gesher alliance, and five from the Democratic Union. Moreover in an historical first, the Arab Joint List – which won 13 mandates – has endorsed an Israeli candidate, with the selection of the Zionist Blue and White party Benny Gantz. “Most of the Israeli public spoke its word. Most of the Israeli public said ‘No’ to Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule,” stressed Joint List Head Ayman Odeh. He noted the “historic element” of his political alliance of four formerly separate parties to put forth a decision, stressing its nomination of Gantz was purely intended to “put an end to the era of Benjamin Netanyahu.”

In reaction to Joint List’s unprecedented action, former Defense Minister and Yisrael Beitenu party Chairman Avigdor Lieberman announced a dramatic decision to nominate no candidate at all to the President. The move is consistent with both Lieberman’s pre and post electoral stance that his party would only agree to back a unity government — together with Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White parties. In reference to the Joint List, Lieberman said “”There is a party that tries to ruin us from within, inside the Israeli Knesset. As far as I’m concerned, the best scenario is for them to belong in the parliament in Ramallah, not in the Israeli Knesset,” concluding “This is why we will not be able to recommend head of Blue and White Benny Gantz either. This is why our recommendation to the president will be very simple: We recommend no one.”

Yisrael Beitenu’s refusal to back either of the leading candidates ahead of government-forming negotiations has instigated a political stalemate, in which neither Benny Gantz nor Benjamin Netanyahu have managed to secure the backing of the requisite 61-majority of parliamentary members. The impasse prompted President Reuven Rivlin to warn both the Likud and Blue and White that failure to reach agreement on a future national unity government will compel the calling of an unprecedented third round of – bearing untold impact on the country’s political stability. Rivlin emphasized that “The only way to prevent an election is the ability of the two biggest parties, the first and second that are almost equal in size, to join forces and to bring a situation where they establish an equal government – where together, you can manage and establish a system that brings a stable government.”