'Netanyahu would sell out country for his private interests'

Gantz urges Rivlin to help ensure Israel does not go to third election

In dig at Netanyahu, Blue and White chief says president should give first chance to form a government only to a leader who commits to letting someone else try if he fails

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks at a campaign rally in Tel Aviv on September 15, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks at a campaign rally in Tel Aviv on September 15, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Sunday urged President Reuvin Rivlin to help Israel avoid a third set of elections, implying that Benjamin Netanyahu should not be tasked with forming a government unless he pledges to let someone else try should he fail.

After the April election, Netanyahu failed to put together a coalition and preferred to send Israel back for another vote over giving someone else a try.

“I call on President Rivlin, in order that we won’t go to elections for a third time, give the mandate for forming a government only to whomever will promise to return it, if and when he doesn’t succeed in forming it,” Gantz said at a campaign event in Tel Aviv.

Gantz also claimed that Netanyahu would “sell out the country for his own private interests.”

Gantz’s entreaty to Rivlin came as Netanyahu refuses to rule out pushing for a third round of elections in less than a year if he is tasked with forming a government yet fails to do so after the September 17 vote.

Under Israeli law, if a lawmaker is charged with putting  together a government and is unable to do so before the end of the legally designated period, he must return the mandate to the president, who then taps another Knesset member with forming a coalition.

However, following elections in April, Netanyahu pushed through a vote to dissolve the Knesset and call a snap poll after failing to put together a government before his mandate ran out, rather than have Rivlin assign the mandate to another lawmaker.

President Reuven Rivlin (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem as Rivlin tasks Netanyahu with forming the next coalition, on April 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Rivlin said earlier this month that he would do everything possible to avoid a third round of elections and suggested Netanyahu exploited Israel’s lack of a constitution to bend the rules of its fragile democracy to stay in power.

“We have no constitution. Until the last election there was an unwritten constitution; there were clear rules of play,” Rivlin lamented.

After the elections, representatives from each party will meet with the president and recommend who they believe should form the next government. Following these consultations, the president will then task whichever lawmaker he thinks has the best chance at forming a government with doing so. This does not have to be the lawmaker with the most recommendations.

If the lawmaker can’t form a government after 28 days, he can receive a 14-day extension at the discretion of the president, as Netanyahu did earlier this year.

Netanyahu got recommendations from 65 out of 120 lawmakers after April’s elections and was then tasked with forming a government.

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, who recommended Netanyahu, then refused to enter his government unless a bill to increase enlistment rates to the military of seminary students was passed without changes, a demand rejected by the premier’s ultra-Orthodox allies.

Despite reported efforts to pick off individual lawmakers from Blue and White and a last-ditch bid to bring the center-left Labor Party into his prospective coalition, Netanyahu was one seat shy of a majority and thus initiated the fresh elections rather than return the mandate to Rivlin.

This marked the first time in Israel’s history that elections did not result in a new government.

Since the second round of elections was called, polls have forecast that neither Likud nor Blue and White will have enough seats for a government together with other parties from their respective blocs, likely signaling further political stagnation.

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