Monday night, President Reuven Rivlin announced that he had received a message from PM Benjamin Netanyahu that he was returning his mandate to the president because he could not form a government. In accordance with the provisions of Basic Law: Government, the director of the Presidential Residence Harel Tubi will inform all the Knesset faction heads that the president intends very soon to pass the mandate to assemble a coalition government to Blue&White chairman Benny Gantz, giving him 28 days for the task.
Gantz said he would meet with the rightwing bloc factions, and people in Ayelet Shaked’s circle have said she would not boycott such a meeting, but make it clear that the negotiations must be made with the entire bloc, and that the only acceptable option is the president’s suggestion of a rotation government with the rightwing block, including Likud and Blue&White.
That’s not happening.
Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri said he would not negotiate with Blue&White, but would consider coming to a meeting with Gantz in the coming days out of courtesy. United Torah Judaism Chairman Yaakov Litzman said that only Likud ministers Yariv Levin and Ze’ev Elkin are conducting negotiations on behalf of the rightwing factions.
In his statement to the factions, Director Tubi will announce that a faction seeking to make its position known to the president before he gives the mandate to MK Gantz, can do so according to the stipulations of the law, within three days of Netanyahu’s returning the mandate.
The major player in the next 28 days, other than Gantz, is Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who can make or break a Gantz government. Gantz should be able to present a minority government with his own party (33 seats) and Labor (6), with the support of the Joint Arab List (13) and Meretz (5) – 57 seats altogether. Such a government would be strong enough to overcome a rightwing bloc (55) No vote, as long as Israel Beiteinu (8) does not vote against it.
It would be a very weak government, which would depend for every move on the support of non-members: the Arabs, Liberman and Meretz. But the purpose of a Gantz government is not to pass legislation, but to destroy Netanyahu.
Not being at the helm would mean that, should there be criminal indictments against him, Netanyahu would not enjoy the protection afforded him by his government position. It would also mean that the Knesset would not offer him shelter from prosecution. And, finally: with a Blue&White House Speaker overseeing the Knesset sessions (most likely MK Meir Cohen, former mayor of Dimona and a Yair Lapid follower), the rightwing legislative agenda would be doomed.
This scenario could be stopped only if Liberman’s party actively votes against the Gantz government, which is not in the cards.
Blue&White has already made it clear that their only goal for now is replacing Netanyahu, in the way they have been treating Meretz, which is eager to join the government after spending two decades in the cold. Democratic Camp (Meretz) Chairman Nitzan Horowitz Tweeted: “Congratulations to Gantz for receiving the mandate! The Democratic camp aims to be part of his government, a government of change that will stop incitement and racism, strive for peace, and promote social justice. It’s time.”
But Horowitz is not going to see the inside of Gantz’s cabinet room, unless he joins a tour group. Because Gantz’s first and foremost goal is to overthrow Netanyahu, so expect a minority government – until the time Netanyahu, now in his 70s (as of Monday) – disappears from the political map, either in court, or by an internal coup in the Likud, at which point Gantz and the emerging new Likud leader would discuss a broad government coalition.