By JACOB MAGID
Israel’s political system was set to make history Thursday, entering for the first time a specially designated 21-day grace period in which any member of the Knesset will have the opportunity to become prime minister.
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz said Wednesday night that he had failed to form a coalition government, handing the mandate back to President Reuven Rivlin after 28 days. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also failed to cobble together a coalition after he was given the first chance to form a government after the September 17 elections.
Rivlin’s office said Wednesday the president would inform Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Thursday morning that the three-week grace period had begun.
During this time, 61 serving MKs — an absolute majority of the Knesset — may ask Rivlin to appoint as prime minister any member of Knesset who agrees in writing to take on the role.
That includes those who have already failed to do so in previous rounds, according to Article 10 of Israel’s Basic Law: The Government, so Netanyahu and Gantz are both still in the running.
Any MK who wins majority support during the 21-day period, which begins Thursday and ends at midnight on December 11, would then be appointed prime minister-designate by the president, the law states. That MK then has a further 14-day window to form a government and get it approved by the Knesset.
Both Rivlin and Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon issued special announcements and directives on Wednesday about the rules for the next 21 days, as Israel has never experienced this phase of the electoral process before.
If December 11 passes without a new prime minister-designate, the law requires that the Knesset dissolve itself, with election day scheduled for a Tuesday at least 90 days later. Elections for the 23rd Knesset would thus likely take place in early March.