Gantz and Netanyahu miss deadline to form government

Jerusalem, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday tasked parliament with forming a government after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz failed to reach an agreement.

The Knesset now has 21 days to form an executive after the deadline for the two sides to form a pact expired at midnight on Wednesday.

Gantz and Netanyahu said in a joint statement that they would continue holding negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to avoid Israelis going back to the polls as the country confronts the coronavirus pandemic.

“Upon finalisation of the meeting between the respective negotiating teams last night, it was concluded to continue discussions today, with the aim of reaching an agreement toward the establishment of a national emergency government,” they said.

From now one, any member of the lower house can try to obtain a simple majority of at least 61 parliamentarians, out of a total of 120.

Negotiations between the two parties appeared to be the main alternative to an eventual dissolution of the Knesset on 7 May.

Gantz’s party, Blue and White, was unable to form a coalition despite having received more endorsements from lawmakers than Netanyahu’s Likud party after Israel’s elections in March.

Negotiations have been showing positive signs in recent days and both sides have said they were close to an agreement.

This prompted Rivlin to reluctantly grant a 48-hour extension to the original deadline, which was on Monday night.

The principle agreement, which would include a rotation between Gantz and Netanyahu as head of government, has been blocked in recent days due to a dispute over the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, according to Blue and White sources.

Another issue added on Wednesday was the country’s justice system which is particularly crucial as Netanyahu is accused of three serious crimes.

His trial was due to start last month but was postponed until May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu, who has the support of his party as well as a block of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parliamentarians, could now try to get support from opposition groups, which would allow him to dispense with Gantz.

If an executive is not formed within the next three weeks, Israel will once again have to go to the polls for the fourth time since April 2019. EFE-EPA


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