Wednesday, 11 Dec 2019 - 13 of Kislev, 5780

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin strongly deplores ‘politics of disruption’ in failure to form government – New elections in March ?

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Blue and White leader Benny Gantz informed Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday night that he had failed to form a government.

Israel now enters a 21 day period where any member of Knesset, (including those who have tried and failed) can present the signatures of 61 Members of the Knesset to the President and form a government. If no request is presented to the President by midnight Wednesday 11 December, the Knesset will dissolve and new elections – the third since last April- will be held, most likely on 3 March 2020.

JERUSALEM—“Mr. Speaker, yesterday MK and former IDF Chief of Staff Benjamin Gantz informed me that he was unable to form a government. Mr. Gantz is the second candidate who has tried and failed to form a government, after the outgoing prime minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government,’’ said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as announced to the Speaker of the Knesset that the mandate given to Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, expired and that the decision regarding who will form the next Israeli government is in the hands of the Knesset, the 120-member parliament.

As Rivlin noted, ‘’this is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that we have got to this point.’’

The Israeli President strongly deplored the political situation. ‘’Let there be no illusion,  this politics of disruption has to stop,’’ said, telling political leaders: ‘’Your political fate is no more important than the old person in hospital, than the children in special education, than the victims of violence in the Arab sector, than the residents of the south – Jewish, Arab, ultra-Orthodox and secular – who need protection from rocket fire, and than the women who need shelter. Over these next 21 days, do not be blocs or parties. Each one of you should look to their conscience and answer one question: What is my duty to the State of Israel.’’

What happened ?

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz informed Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday night that he had failed to form a government.

Gantz said: “Over the past few weeks we have made great efforts toward forming a broad, liberal unity government, exactly as the citizens of Israel chose. A government that will serve everyone – religious and secular, Jews and Arabs. Those who voted for Blue and White and those who did not. But forming a government is not just the technical task of connecting the fringe sectors into a majority. Forming a government is an ethical and moral mission, a historical mission.”

Gantz attacked Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on bringing his 55-seat right-wing/religious bloc into any government, saying the bloc was focused on “the benefit of just one man, instead of the good of those who are sick, lying in hospital hallways.” (Israel’s medical system is undergoing a crisis, which has not been addressed because there’s no new government and no budget.)

Despite the negotiating window closing, Netanyahu replied with a public call to Gantz to come and negotiate with him with no preconditions, saying, “we have historic opportunities and serious security challenges, and we cannot lose one minute.”

Israel now enters a 21 day period where any member of Knesset, (including those who have tried and failed) can present the signatures of 61 Members of the Knesset to the President and form a government. If no request is presented to the President by midnight Wednesday 11 December, the Knesset will dissolve and new elections – the third since last April- will be held, most likely on 3 March 2020.

Sources in the Blue and White party have told JNS that there were two main issues responsible for Gantz’s failure to create a unity government with a rotation agreement for the premiership between himself and Netanyahu. The first relates to Netanyahu himself. The Prime Minister is expected to be indicted on corruption charges next week, and Blue and White refuses to join a government led by a premier who has been indicted.

The second relates to Netanyahu’s 55-seat bloc, which includes ultra-Orthodox and right-wing parties. Those parties’ MKs, said the sources, would never agree to the liberal agenda Blue and White seeks to implement, making it impossible for Blue and White to work with the entire bloc.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Wednesday evening that Gantz was willing to agree to a rotation of the premiership with Netanyahu, but that others in his party, including Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid, had not allowed him to do so.

Despite these obstacles, some hope existed that a government could be formed with the participation of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party and its eight seats. Lieberman could have potentially joined Netanyahu’s bloc to form a government of 63 mandates, or he could have joined with Gantz to create a minority government with the support of the Joint Arab List.

But both those options were taken off the the table during a dramatic midday press conference on Wednesday, in which Lieberman strongly denounced the ultra-Orthodox parties that are part of Netanyahu’s 55-seat bloc—bashing their “extremism” and calling them “anti-Zionist,” closing the door on the possibility of sitting in a government with them. He also blasted the Joint List as “a fifth column” and said he would never work with them, thus ending Gantz’s chances of forming a government.

Lieberman was attacked from all sides. Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism called his statements “anti-Semitic.” Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, compared Lieberman to a cat that meows when it wants attention.

The attacks against Lieberman were not limited to those he had targeted.

Stav Shaffir of the left-wing and secular Democratic Union said that “Lieberman boycotted the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs. He poured oil on Netanyahu’s fiery and poisonous incitement. They are brothers in incitement. Our response must be to work with all our might on forming a corrective government made of secular, religious, Arab and ultra-Orthodox Israelis together. We should form a government that leaves the brothers of incitement on the outside.”

Motti Yogev of the right-wing and religious Jewish Home Party told JNS that Lieberman is to blame for the “absurd situation in which many necessary services in Israel are missing” because of the lack of a new government. “The nation of Israel wants and needs a government,” he said, “with or without Lieberman.”

JNS contributed to this report.

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