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Gantz says forming a unity government may take more time

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President Reuven Rivlin meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the President's residence in Jerusalem on Sept. 23. (Haim Zach/GPO photo)

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz told Israel’s president in an update of his efforts to form an emergency unity government coalition that he may need to request an extension of his mandate, which is permitted by law.

President Reuven Rivlin told Gantz that he would take the request under consideration closer to the expiration of the original mandate at midnight on April 13, according to a statement from Blue and White released Sunday.

A joint statement released on Friday by Blue and White and the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the two leaders had met “to advance negotiations toward the formation of a national emergency government. The talks were held in a positive and constructive spirit, leading to further progress and understandings. The two instructed their negotiating teams to promptly finalize remaining issues so as to reach a coalition agreement between Blue and White and Likud.”

Since Netanyahu is in self-quarantine after meeting with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman — who was diagnosed last week with the coronavirus — the respective party leaders reportedly met at the prime minister’s residence, with Netanyahu sitting inside and Gantz sitting on the patio, forcing them to shout throughout the discussions.

In a twist, even though Gantz was tapped by Rivlin to put together a government, he is negotiating to make Netanyahu the prime minister. Under the emerging deal between the two parties, Netanyahu would serve first as premier, before vacating after 18 months and turning the position over to Gantz.

The Times of Israel reported Sunday that Blue and White is working on a way to enshrine the rotation agreement into law so Netanyahu is certain to allow Gantz to take over.

Gantz recently had himself installed as Speaker of the Knesset, providing with him control over the Israeli parliament’s legislative agenda and providing him leverage during the negotiations. He has said he agreed to enter a unity government with Netanyahu in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic and to save the country from having a fourth election in a little over a year.

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