Israeli president extends mandate of Netanyahu rival by 48 hours

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin early Tuesday extended by another 48 hours the mandate of centrist Blue and White faction leader Benny Gantz to try his hand at forming a long-awaited government.

His announcement came as right-wing caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met into the early hours of Tuesday with his main challenger Gantz, even after the centrist leader’s mandate, handed to him following March 2 elections, expired at midnight.

The two rivals have accelerated efforts to form an emergency unity government to cope with the coronavirus outbreak and related economic crisis.

The new deadline was now Wednesday at midnight (2200 GMT), a statement from Rivlin’s office said. 

“The request was brought to the President’s Residence […] with the support of both sides and on the understanding that they are very close to reaching an agreement between them,” said the statement.

The overnight Netanyahu-Gantz meeting came after dramatic reports throughout the day that talks between their negotiating teams had blown up only to be picked up again.

Israel’s leading television news channels said the sides argued over the appointment of judges amid Netanyahu’s upcoming corruption trial, due to start in May.

Army Radio reported that a compromise now on the table suggests that if Israel’s supreme court rules that Netanyahu may not serve as prime minister for the first 18 months of a rotation agreement, because of the indictments filed against him, the unity government will dissolve itself and new elections will be held.

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Netanyahu has headed a caretaker government since his coalition fell apart in December 2018. Since then, an unprecedented three elections in under a year have all ended inconclusively. (dpa)

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Augustine Aminu

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