Rivlin says he warned Gantz not to trust Netanyahu before they formed coalition

In closed-door comments, ex-president claims Netanyahu asked him to find partner for government, gave him blank check for demands; Likud, Gantz’s office both deny version of events

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, Reuven Rivlin, center, and Benny Gantz, meeting in Jerusalem on March 15, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Benjamin Netanyahu, left, Reuven Rivlin, center, and Benny Gantz, meeting in Jerusalem on March 15, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Former president Reuven Rivlin has said that he warned then-Blue and White party chair Benny Gantz that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not fulfill his promises when the two formed a government in 2020, according to leaked recordings published Monday.

After Israel’s third election within a year was held in March 2020, Gantz broke an election pledge to never partner with his rival and joined a government with Netanyahu in order to end the country’s political deadlock. He agreed to form a power-sharing coalition with a rotating premiership, but the government collapsed in seven months amid disagreements over the state budget.

“Even though he didn’t really want me to be president, when I gave the prime minister the mandate to form a government I received from him a blank piece of paper with his signature, and he said, ‘Bring me a partner, he should write down whatever he wants, and I will be required to carry it out,'” Rivlin told students at the Ein Prat leadership academy, in recordings aired by the Kan public broadcaster.

Rivlin said that after Gantz signed the document, Rivlin congratulated him on the achievement of apparently saving the country from another election, but warned him not to trust Netanyahu.

“But just know, so you don’t misunderstand, whoever signs and fills out this blank page — not a single word will be fulfilled,” Rivlin said he told Gantz.

Both the Likud party and Gantz’s office denied Rivlin’s version of events.

Then-president Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Likud party stated that the events described by the former president “never happened.”

Gantz’s office also denied Rivlin’s retelling: “The facts on the ground were that the coalition talks took over a month, and were not over a blank page. Either way, Gantz did not enter into a government for Netanyahu, but in spite of Netanyahu.”

Rivlin’s office did not comment on the leaked recordings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) attend a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

Gantz and Netanyahu signed a convoluted coalition agreement in May 2020, in which a failure to pass a budget was the sole scenario under which Netanyahu would not have to step aside and hand over the premiership to Gantz.

The coalition indeed failed to pass a budget — a failure widely blamed on Netanyahu — and thus the government collapsed in December 2020, and elections were automatically triggered.

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