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Israel’s President Drops a Bombshell on National Unity Talks to Form Government

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Nothing like the excitement of Israeli politics. President Rubi Rivlin just dropped a bombshell. Speaking with Knesset Insider, political consultant Jeremy Saltan about what we just witnessed, the chances for a government and what type of government that might form under these new circumstances.

Blue & White leader Benny Gantz was given the mandate by President Rivlin to form a government because he had 61 supporters. Since that time, his party split, and he now only leads a party of 15 with two additional factions of 2, giving him 19, not the party of 35 he once led. He most probably no longer has those 61 anti-Bibi parliamentarians in Knesset who would support him forming a government, because he is trying to form a unity government with Bibi!

His mandate ends on Monday night. Not only did he not succeed in forming a government, he wrote a letter to the President asking for a two-week extension, as is afforded by the law, in order to continue unity talks where he agrees that Netanyahu would be Prime Minister.

Usually, in such circumstances, the President would either give Gantz the two-week extension or he would give the mandate to the next person with the best chance of making a government, in this case, Netanyahu. However, the President decided on an additional third direction that has never been done before. He skipped the second mandate, and went directly to the third mandate, in essence cutting potential unity talks from six weeks to three weeks, and also slighting Netanyahu by denying him the mandate to form a government. As Jeremy Saltan explains in the video interview, this cut in time for talks, during the coronavirus pandemic, actually hurts most the person President Rivlin is actually trying to help, Blue & White leader Benny Gantz.

As Jeremy Saltan posted on facebook: President Rivlin is taking a big gamble by not extending Gantz’s mandate, conducting a second round of consultations or granting the second mandate. He might reconsider at the last moment because if his gamble fails we will be going to a fourth election and it will be his fault.

I’ll discuss this, Orly Levy’s jump to the (now) 59-MK bloc and more in about 20 minutes w/Avi Abelow

Israeli law grants the President 4 options here:
1) Extend 1st Mandate for 14 days
2) New consultations for 48 hours (3 days on calendar potentially)
3) Present 2nd Mandate to whoever was in second place during the Presidential Consultations.
4) Give the mandate straight to the Knesset and begin the 21 days of collecting 61 MK signatures.

Historically, all previous President’s have gone through options 1-3 in cases like these. No President has ever chosen option 4, as President Rivlin just did.

Full Interview with Jeremy Saltan