Court set to decide on fate of coalition deal on Thursday


NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public?
(photo credit: CORINNA KERN AMIR COHEN REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice is set to rule on Thursday on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form a government and whether his coalition agreement with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is legal.
The judges worked all day on drafting their ruling in order to complete it ahead of Thursday night’s deadline for the signatures of 61 MKs supporting the government’s formation to be submitted to President Reuven Rivlin to prevent another election.
Netanyahu and Gantz met Wednesday night to consider additional changes in the coalition agreement, in an effort to satisfy the court’s demands. Among the changes considered was to extend the government’s term from three years to four.
In such a scenario, Netanyahu would still be prime minister for the first year and a half until November 2021 and Gantz after that to May 2023. But there would then be an additional six months for Netanyahu and then for Gantz.
The agreement was not changed on that subject, because it already states that the two party leaders could decide together to extend the term of the government from three years to four at any point during the government’s tenure.
Netanyahu and Gantz also did not reach a conclusion in their meeting on when the government should be sworn in. If Netanyahu receives a two-week mandate from Rivlin next Monday, a government would not need to be sworn in until June 1, but Gantz wants the process completed and a swearing-in ceremony to take place next week.
The two party leaders were set to meet again at the Knesset overnight during the marathon voting session to decide what portfolios Blue and White would give Likud in return for the Health Ministry.
Likud demanded the Communications and Culture and Sports portfolios, but Blue and White refused. Blue and White preferred to give up smaller portfolios, such as Diapora Affairs, Social Equality or Strategic Affairs.
One possibility discussed was for Blue and White to give up three small portfolios so two could go to Likud and one that would be a third portfolio for Yamina, in order to enable Naftali Bennett’s party to join the coalition. Yamina did not participate in Wednesday night’s votes on the government formation bills, because its fate on the coalition is unknown.
Bennett has demanded the Health portfolio for himself, but sources in Likud said Netanyahu and Gantz had made an agreement that if Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman would give it up, Blue and White would get the first shot at it. Likud sources said that if no deal is made with Blue and White, Likud would keep the Health portfolio.
Blue and White officials said Bennett and Likud were coordinated on the issue and that Bennett had only demanded the Health portfolio in order to pressure Blue and White to give up more for the ministry in talks with Likud.
Before Blue and White MKs sign for Netanyahu to form the government, they are demanding that Shas and United Torah Judaism document their promise that if Netanyahu breaks his deal with Gantz and seeks an early election they would remain in a government led by Gantz instead of enabling the election to be advanced.


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