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Israeli president rejects request for more time to form governing coalition with PM Netanyahu

The leader of Israel's Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, speaks to supporters after the announcement of the exit polls in the Israeli elections at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 3, 2020.
The leader of Israel's Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, speaks to supporters after the announcement of the exit polls in the Israeli elections at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 3, 2020. © Corinna Kern / Reuters

Israel's president on Sunday rejected parliament speaker Benny Gantz's request for more time to form a government, as talks persist on a possible alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

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"President Reuven Rivlin informed ... Benny Gantz that in the current circumstances no extension would be possible to the period allocated to him for forming a government," a presidency statement said. 

Gantz has until the end of Monday to form an administration.

Gantz, Netanyahu's election rival, had asked for additional time on Saturday to try to form a government with the long-time leader to end more than a year of political deadlock. 

A 28-day mandate to put together a governing coalition followed an inconclusive March 2 election. Gantz, an ex-armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had asked Rivlin for a 14-day extension.

Gantz had run on a promise not to serve in a government with Netanyahu, citing the prime minister’s indictment on corruption charges. Netanyahu denies those charges.

But in a reversal that dismayed many of his supporters, Gantz said the Covid-19 crisis had made a national emergency government with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party an imperative.

"The political, health and social crisis have brought me to the decision that even at a heavy political and personal price, I will do all I can to establish a government with the Likud," Gantz wrote in a letter to the president, published by his party.

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Rivlin gave no immediate word on whether he would grant more time to Gantz, who in his letter said the two political rivals appeared close to a final agreement.

According to Israeli media reports, the parties have already agreed on a power-sharing deal in which Netanyahu would serve as prime minister for 18 months, after which Gantz would take over. Israel has held three inconclusive elections since last April.

With more than 10,000 reported cases of Covid-19 and 101 deaths, Israel's tight restrictions on movement aimed at curbing the coronavirus spread have forced many businesses to shut down and have sent unemployment rates soaring to about 25 percent.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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