Israel's president denies Gantz's extension request to form unity government

Israel's president denies Gantz's extension request to form unity government
2 min read
12 April, 2020
Reuven Rivlin rejected Benny Gantz's appeal for more time, citing claims from Netanyahu the two political rivals were not close to finalising a unity government deal.
Benny Gantz (L) has a deadline to form a unity government by Monday [Getty]
Israel's president on Sunday rejected parliament speaker Benny Gantz's request for more time to form a government, as talks persist on a possible alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Gantz had asked for more time from Rivlin on Saturday, claiming he was near to finalising a unity deal with Netanyahu's Likud party.

The president's statement said Netanyahu "did not confirm [he and Gantz] are close to signing an agreement that would lead to a unity government".

"President Reuven Rivlin informed ... Benny Gantz that in the current circumstances no extension would be possible to the period allocated to him for forming a government," the statement added. 

Gantz has until the end of Monday to form an administration.

Gantz's Blue and White party responded to the decision saying that efforts to form a unity alliance "are continuing even this very moment", and that "Gantz told Netanyahu when they spoke that he is committed to the agreements between them and is ready to move forward with them at any place and at any time… to form a national emergency government as the people of Israel want and need." 

If a deal is not reached by midnight on Monday, the mandate will be again handed back to the Knesset, whose members will have 21 days to form a majority and recommend a candidate for president. The candidate will then be given 14 days to form an administration.

Likud has called for Rivlin to give the mandate to Netanyahu.

Gantz, Netanyahu's chief rival in three elections over the past year, was tasked with forming a new government by Israel's president last month, after winning the backing of a narrow majority of members of the newly elected parliament.

Read more: Israel’s Gantz ‘ready to accept’ limited West Bank annexation in coronavirus unity government deal

In an unexpected turnaround, Israel's opposition leader later said he would seek to form an "emergency" government with Netanyahu's Likud party to confront a growing coronavirus crisis.

Driven in part by politically contentious endorsement recieved from the Arab Joint List, Gantz's decision caused his Blue and White alliance to disintegrate, leaving him at the helm of a party now a shadow of its former self. 

The emergency government would however likely keep Netanyahu in the prime minister's post for a year and a half - despite facing trial over corruption allegations - before Gantz would take his place.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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