Israeli President Rivlin gives Netanyahu mandate to form new government

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin formally gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu four weeks to form a government after a meeting at the President’s Residence with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz failed to bring about a breakthrough.

“Netanyahu had the best chance to form a government,” Rivlin said in a speech alongside the Prime minister.

Rivlin said he gave the mandate to Netanyahu because he received 55 recommendations from MKs, compared with Gantz’s 54. He called upon parties to stop disqualifying each other and lamented that a unity government was not formed.

In his speech, Rivlin revealed that he had offered the possibility of passing a law enabling a Prime minister to suspend himself while under indictment and have a vice Prime minister take over until the Prime minister is cleared. Such a bill could have enabled Gantz to run the country following a potential Netanyahu indictment. But Gantz rejected the idea.

Netanyahu already has a bloc of 55 MKs from his Likud Party and his allies in Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism. He would need Yisrael Beytenu, Labor-Gesher or Blue And White to join in order to form a government. All have repeatedly refused to do so.

“My inability to form a government is slightly less than that of Gantz,” Netanyahu said in accepting the mandate.

Netanyahu called on Gantz to form a government led by him, citing security, diplomatic and economic reasons and raising the prospects of both war with Iran and a peace process with the Palestinians led by US President Donald Trump.

If Netanyahu fails, Rivlin could give the mandate to Gantz or to another candidate in Likud. He could also tell Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that there is no candidate. If that were to happen, there would be 21 days in which any candidate could try to get 61 MKs together and form a government.

Rivlin left Netanyahu and Gantz to talk alone for half an hour, but their talks did not succeed.

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