Due to Meron tragedy, time is running out for Netanyahu to form gov’t – The Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always delayed key decisions until just before their deadline. But what happens when there is a national tragedy less than 120 hours before the deadline that prevents dealing with the decision? Netanyahu declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the victims of the Meron disaster, which ruled out coalition talks. Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin set a special mourning session of the Knesset for Monday, because the plenum does not convene on Sunday, making it a nonpolitical day as well. That leaves Tuesday, when Netanyahu’s mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to form a government ends at 11:59 p.m. Will he wait until then to deliver the offer to Yamina leader Naftali Bennett to go first in a rotation as prime minister? It should have been obvious for three weeks that there was no other way for Netanyahu to be prime minister for any part of the term ahead. Bennett also lost crucial time due to the tragedy in Meron. He planned to hold marathon coalition talks with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid over the weekend to finalize a deal on a new government before Netanyahu’s mandate – and thereby his own leverage due to his kingmaker role – ran out. A source close to Bennett denied a report that he had conducted coalition talks on Saturday night when the victims were being buried. “It was nonsense,” the source said of the report. “Not every WhatsApp message from a mediator constitutes negotiations.”

Since it is almost impossible for either Netanyahu or Bennett to build a government by Tuesday night – and Netanyahu’s aides said he would not seek an extension from the president – Rivlin’s associates said the mandate would next go to Lapid, who has the most recommendations to form a government. Lapid’s associates have said he still intends to form a government that will be led in its first two years by Bennett. Yet it is somewhat ironic that the death of 45 haredim will help give the mandate to Lapid, who has had a negative relationship with the ultra-Orthodox since entering politics. That relationship will require Lapid to be especially careful in what he says about the tragedy in Meron when the blame game intensifies immediately after the last funeral is held. Had he not been forming a government now, he could have combined his criticism of Netanyahu and his ministers for the disaster with condemnation of the haredi leadership, as other politicians will. But Lapid will have to hold back, because external haredi support could be the key to the new government’s stability. Other politicians will say that Netanyahu giving in to the haredi leadership led in part to the deaths. But such criticism from Lapid at such a crucial juncture could backfire on him. Politically, time is on Lapid’s side. But it is also a time for restraint.

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Due to Meron tragedy, time is running out for Netanyahu to form gov’t – The Jerusalem Post

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