22:33 GMT +307 December 2019
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    A man walks by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu, left, alongside the Blue and White party leaders, from left to right, Moshe Yaalon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, April 7, 2019. Hebrew on billboards reads, left Strong Likud strong Israel on the right Every vote matters, win Blue and White. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

    Time's Up: Is Israel Heading to the Polls?

    © AP Photo / Oded Balilty
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    Last-minute attempts to form a government in Israel will cease at midnight. After that, the country is expected to enter a turbulent period of political instability that will last for weeks. With another round of elections looming, here is what you need to know about the possible scenarios.

    Time is ticking on Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz as he struggles to form a coalition that will land him the job of Israel's Prime Minister. With less than 24 hours left before the mandate returns to the country's President Reuven Rivlin, here is what Israel can expect from the upcoming days and weeks.

    20 November is believed to be the last chance for Gantz to form a government.

    Gantz and Netanyahu Join Forces

    Although his party came first - gaining 33 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament in the last round of elections in September - Gantz still needs to join forces with other parties in order to reach the 61 seats that are needed to form a government. While during the election campaign the Blue and White party vowed not to sit down with Netanyahu, Gantz is reportedly toying with the idea, something that causes frictions with other key players in the party.

    Chances: low, specifically because joining Netanyahu would not only mean a potential split in the party but also because it can cause significant damage to Gantz' reputation.

    Narrow Government?

    Gantz forms a narrow government that relies on his "natural allies" - a block of centre and centre-left parties that would bring Gantz 44 seats. Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beitenu party that positions itself on the right in the country's political spectrum and the left-wing Joint Arab List will be asked to back such a government from the outside (i.e. without joining the coalition itself).

    Despite significant differences between the two parties' agendas, they might want to join forces primarily because they want to see Netanyahu go. Yet, such a government, if established, will have a hard time passing legislation and deal with pressing issues including the country's budget and security.

    Chances: low, primarily because Lieberman will not want to pose as a politician who gave up on his right-wing principles and joined forces with the Arab parties. Such a move might cost him votes in the next round of elections.

    Lieberman Joins a Right-Wing Block

    At 11 am GMT, the Israel Beitenu chief is expected to announce his decision on whether he will join the Likud or remain neutral. If he decides to form a government with Netanyahu's right-wing block that consists of 55 members, Netanyahu will have a government. And Gantz will be the head of the opposition.

    Chances: medium. Lieberman has been an unpredictable player so far. On one hand, he holds grudges against Netanyahu, but on the other - the coalition with right-wing parties is a natural fit for his party.

    If no miracle happens by 10 pm GMT, the mandate returns to the country's President Reuven Rivlin.

    What's next?

    Three weeks are given to any member of the Israeli parliament, including those who have already failed in doing so - Netanyahu and Gantz - to collect 61 signatures needed to form a coalition. 

    Chances: low. No parliamentarian seems to have a support of 61 members of the 120-seat Parliament.

    Then what? No government is formed. Israel goes to the polls - most probably in March, for the third time in a year, although according to a survey released by Israel Hayom newspaper in September, 60 percent of Israelis are against another round of voting.

    Another Chance?

    A member of the Knesset does manage to get the needed signatures and goes to the President to receive a mandate to form a government.

    Then what? About a month is given for coalition talks. If they fail and no government is formed, Israel goes to another round of elections.

    But it gets even more complicated. Next week, Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt is expected to announce his decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a number of graft probes including allegations of buying positive media coverage and receiving illegal gifts from a rich donor. That decision will have a direct impact on the drama in the Knesset.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), Israeli president of the Supreme Court  Esther Hayut (C) and Benny Gantz (L), leader of Blue and White party, attend a memorial ceremony for late Israeli president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on September 19, 2019
    © AFP 2019 / GIL COHEN-MAGEN
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), Israeli president of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut (C) and Benny Gantz (L), leader of Blue and White party, attend a memorial ceremony for late Israeli president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on September 19, 2019

    Netanyahu Not Indicted

    He continues to try and collect the 61 signatures.

    Chances to succeed: Low, partially because Mandelblitt is not expected to budge from his decision to drop cases against the Prime Minister, and partially because Netanyahu failed to collect the 61 signatures before so chances that he will succeed in doing so this time are slim.

    Then what? If Netanyahu fails, Israel goes to the polls.

    Netanyahu Indicted and Leaves

    Israel's public, opposition circles and some members of Netanyahu's Likud party mount pressure on the premier to step aside and relinquish power. The Likud then goes to primaries to elect a new head. Netanyahu meanwhile becomes an ordinary member of the Knesset that can concentrate on his legal issues instead of ruling a country.

    Chances: medium. On the one hand, Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to stay in power despite legal battles, but on the other hand, Mandelblitt's decision might cause an uproar within the Israeli public and those circles that want to see Netanyahu go. That pressure might lead to a coup within the Likud, with some members demanding Netanyahu step aside. 

    Then what? If Netanyahu steps down and the Likud elects a new head, Blue and White will approach the Likud to form a unity government with Benny Gantz as first in rotation for the top job.

    Netanyahu Indicted but Stays

    Netanyahu indicted but - despite protest and opposition - he doesn't move from the position of the country's premiership.

    Then what? Still no government is formed. Israel goes to elections.

    If no government is formed, the Knesset is expected to dissolve on 11 December, while Israelis will likely go to the polls in March. The exact date varies, but according to some estimates, the general vote will be either on 3rd or 17th of March.

    Tags:
    Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu, elections, Israel
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