Just another manic mandate: 6 things to know for September 26
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Just another manic mandate: 6 things to know for September 26

Rivlin hands Netanyahu the rock (and takes heat), but nobody thinks the Likud head can do much with it but move Israel closer to another vote

President Reuven Rivlin, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive for a press conference to give Netanyahu the mandate to form a new government, held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive for a press conference to give Netanyahu the mandate to form a new government, held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 25, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Do you know the mandate man, Bibi is his name: President Reuven Rivlin wasted little time in giving Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu the go-ahead to try his hand at forming a government, and most in the media are wasting little time in predicting the failure of the effort.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Netanyahu is expected to let Rivlin choose someone else as soon as next week, once he sees he can’t form a right-wing religious government.
  • ToI’s Raoul Wootliff notes that new elections loom now that Rivlin has given Netanyahu the mandate: “After two days of flurried excitement, Rivlin, Netanyahu, Gantz — and the people of Israel — appear to be back to square one.”
  • Haaretz’s Yossi Verter writes that the mandate given Netanyahu by Rivlin has no real value.
  • “The fancy parchment will spend the holiday at the Prime Minister’s Residence and then go back to where it came, it order to speed along the way to more elections, or perhaps to make it more difficult for Likud to organize leadership primaries,” Verter writes. “Netanyahu, even in his penultimate act, is not throwing up his hands.”

2. Unity watch: Rivlin continued his pleas for unity even as he gave Netanyahu the mandate, even revealing that he had proposed to Gantz and Netanyahu a legal change to the position of “interim prime minister” that would grant the officeholder “full power” in the case the prime minister cannot carry out his duties.

  • Most reports say that Netanyahu was okay with the deal but Blue and White rejected it.
  • “Unity is the order of the hour,” reads the top headline in Likud-backing Israel Hayom, seemingly giving the talks a chance.
  • Minister Yariv Levin, the head of the Likud negotiating team, tells Channel 13 news that the party supports Rivlin’s proposal, “but a third round of elections are more likely.”
  • Channel 12 news reports that the head of the Histadrut labor federation is calling on Labor party head Amir Peretz to at least try out talks with Netanyahu.

3. What was Rubi thinking: Rivlin is taking some flak for the way in which he has handled the process.

  • Walla News’s Amir Oren says he set a precedent with his activist approach in trying to forge a unity government, but perhaps he shouldn’t have.
  • “His intentions were good but his proposal was not serious,” he writes, slamming him for ignoring the pending indictment hanging over Netanyahu’s head. “This is the second time in a row that Rivlin has acted like everything is normal with the three cases against Netanyahu. Thus he has helped along the corruption of Israeli society.”
  • “It’s not nice to say, but Rivlin is subverting the voters’ will,” tweets left-wing activist Yariv Oppenheim.
  • “All respect to Rivlin but what he suggested yesterday is the worst thing for democracy, creating a Basic Law just for personal political interests,” tweets Haaretz reporter Chaim Levinson.
  • ToI editor David Horovitz asks why Rivlin didn’t turn to supposed kingmaker Avigdor Liberman for help, even he’s already sticking his neck out.
  • “One wonders whether Rivlin briefly considered giving Liberman a shot at bashing heads, and forcing unity upon Netanyahu and Gantz in the style of [Levi] Eshkol in 1961,” he writes, noting a picture posted to Rivlin’s Instagram in which Eshkol forged a government headed by David Ben-Gurion.

4. Master of timing: Many note that Netanyahu looked glum, or at least not excited, when he got the task. This comes after reports that both Netanyahu and Gantz were angling to be chosen second, thinking it would ultimately give them a better chance.

  • Indeed, shortly after the announcement, the Joint List revealed that Balad actually pulled support at Blue and White’s request, so Netanyahu would have to go first.
  • “Why? Because Netanyahu will not succeed in forming a government and when the task will be given to Blue and White afterward, the parties will not want to go to third early elections, the public will not want them to and will become angry… And at that moment, Gantz will be able to form the government. This is Blue and White’s logic in the last two days before the recommendation,” Odeh says he was told by Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah, who made the request.
  • That’s what Odeh claims. But Channel 13 notes that Balad head Mtanes Shehadeh begs to differ. “Balad doesn’t make decisions according to capricious tactics, not of Blue and White or anybody else,” he’s quoted tweeting.
  • Shelah also denies it, telling Army Radio that “I didn’t determine who the Joint List endorsed, or in what form,” Shelah said in an Army Radio interview.
  • Meanwhile, Israel Hayom’s Mati Tuchfeld claims that Netanyahu actually wanted to go first, describing him as a masterful tactician who “grasps things in hours that could take mere mortals days, even weeks, to figure out.”
  • “The rumor that Blue and White wanted to drag out negotiations until the attorney general could decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu after the Oct. 2 hearing in his criminal cases was enough to force Netanyahu to do the opposite – hit the gas and schedule things so that a government would be in place or a new election called before the attorney general announces his decision,” he writes.

5. Vote for me, try No. 3: Many others are grasping that Netanyahu appears to have already hit the campaign trail for elections the third, citing his speech at the President’s Residence in which he laid out challenges facing the country.

  • “Is it possible that Netanyahu really believes what he was saying? Or perhaps he sees us all as statistics, a public that is amazed at his dramatic abilities, which paper over his integrity and honesty,” columnist Sima Kadmon writes in Yedioth Ahronoth. “If you were impressed by his campaign videos, it was only a promo for the real show we will see in the coming days. Calling for unity while preparing for elections.”
  • Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes that Netanyahu “was making his pitch to the parties that have not yet agreed to join his government, and setting out to the public why they should blame those recalcitrant politicians for not joining him, if need be by voting Likud in a third election. And have no doubt. In his mind, Netanyahu is already fighting an election in a few months.”

6. Captain’s logorrhea: Many accused Netanyahu of using public admissions about strikes against Iranian forces for electoral gains.

  • In a preview of an interview published by Yedioth, former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot does not go that far, but he does say that blabbing about it was a bad move.
  • “The recent break in ambiguity is a serious error that jeopardizes national security,” he’s quoted saying.
  • The interview is quickly seized on to score points against the prime minister.
  • “Everyone in the defense establishment knows that Netanyahu got rid of the ambiguity because of the elections. He’s less ‘Mr. Security’ and more like ‘Mr. Politics,’” Blue and White MK Yair Lapid tweets.
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