Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir/TPS
Knesset Member Orly Levy-Abekasis

Orly Levy-Abekasis, the daughter of former Likud Minister David Levy, officially announced on Sunday that she is exclusively supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the position of Prime Minister and for forming a coalition government.

A few weeks ago, Levy pulled her one-woman Gesher party out from its merger with the Labor-Meretz party, but she did not officially pick a side between Gantz and Netanyahu. A short while after her split, Amir Peretz (Labor) followed suit and disconnected the 3-seat remnants of the Labor party from the 3-seat Meretz party and announced he would join a unity government, now that Blue&White’s Benny Gantz announced his intentions to negotiate with Netanyahu.

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Subsequently, Peretz has let Benny Gantz (who split away from Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon’s parties) manage the negotiations for a unity government with Netanyahu, with the understanding that his Labor party would be entering under the Blue&White umbrella, and possibly even merging into Blue&White. He was promised the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Social Welfare in Netanyahu’s coalition.

Gantz is supposed to return the mandate to President Ruby Rivlin on Monday midnight, if he fails to form a coalition. President Rivlin has already told BLue&White that if nothing changes, he is not extending Gantz’s mandate and will bypass Netanyahu and deliver the mandate directly to the Knesset. The Knesset gets the next three-weeks to find someone, most likely Netanyahu, to form a coalition, or it’s new elections.

Gantz may use that time to try to pass an anti-Netanyahu law that would prevent the prime minister from running again, but with all the holidays in the middle he may not have enough time. In addition, convincing his partners Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel to support a personal bill, which they have previously declared they oppose, will also be a challenge.

Levy announced earlier on Sunday, that Gantz’s request for an extension is an indication that he is unable to form a coalition and it is just a stall-tactic.

Furthermore, Levy said that Gantz’s open threats to legislate Knesset laws personally against Netanyahu while simultaneously negotiating with Netanyahu was selective morality from someone who promised clean politics.

As a result, Levy declared that since the Likud is the largest party in the Knesset, and with her support the coalition has a solid 59 seats, which is currently functioning as a government, she is exclusively supporting Netanyahu as he is the only one with a chance to form a coalition.

Levy’s announcement was a message to certain MKs who are still sitting on the fence, as well as a message to President Ruby Rivlin, to hand the mandate over to Netanyahu right away, though clearly Rivlin wasn’t moved by the message.

With Netanyahu’s bloc now at officially 59 seats, he needs only two more seats to form a coalition.

That leaves three most likely options:

1) Gantz realizes that he has no future in politics if new elections are held, after having broken all his election promises and betraying his partners by negotiating with Netanyahu. It’s in his best interest to compromise. Though he may still pull a Samson, and try to take Netanyahu down with him with an anti-Netanyahu law.

2) Blue&White’s token rightwingers Tzvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz party), who repeatedly say they will only support a unity government also realize they have no future in politics if new elections are held after having betrayed their former political comrades and discovering they had very little in common with them in the first place, besides hating Netanyahu. Their best option is to be flexible and join Netanyahu’s coalition.

3) Amir Peretz & Itzik Shmuli of Labor realize that they have no future in politics if new elections are held having already betrayed the few voters the Labor party had left and destroying the party. Their best option is to join Netanyahu’s coalition.

At this point in the game, whichever cohort acts first wins the grand prize and the others are left holding the bag.

For Netanyahu, it will be much simpler to welcome in either only Hauser-Hendel or Peretz-Shmuli. He can generously reward either duo without harming the distribution of ministerial positions within his Likud party or to his existing coalition partners, and he gets rid of the rotation for prime minister. Win-win-win.

Gantz has proven to be a slow decider, though he could surprise everyone. With Levy on board with Netanyahu, it’s a smoother move for her former partner Peretz to join Netanyahu before the others, and he is the most likely candidate to make the move quickly.

Otherwise, new election again.

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