01:27 GMT08 August 2020
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    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has decided to grant the head of the Blue and White Alliance, Benny Gantz, a 48-hour extension to form a coalition government, prolonging a mandate that was set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, Israeli media reported.

    While Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalise an agreement that will see the establishment of a coalition in Israel, Twitter users are venting their anger at the situation and taking into consideration the possibility of a fourth general election, slated for the end of July if necessary.

    This comes after Gantz submitted a joint request with Netanyahu calling on the head of state to give them a couple more days to cement their agreement on forming a unity government. 

    President Reuven Rivlin earlier rejected Gantz's request for an extension threatening the mandate would go back to Israel's Parliament if a deal was not reached, but later reconsidered his decision by giving the Blue and White leader additional time.

    Although the deal has not yet been finalised, reports suggest that the two are very close to signing an agreement that would divide power between them.

    The deal presupposes that Netanyahu would occupy the PM's seat first, with Gantz serving as his deputy and the Minister of Defence. After a year and a half, they would swap.

    While the agreement is still in the making, many took to social media to urge the two leaders to stick to their promises.

    People Want Unity

    Shimon Riklin, an Israeli journalist for Channel 20 who is supportive of Netanyahu, wrote: "Dear Prime Minister. It is not easy for me to write this given the outcomes this unity might entail... but you promised unity. Keep your word".

    Another well-known journalist Yinon Magal followed Riklin. "Don't count on polls", he advised Netanyahu referring to a survey that showed his Likud would only get 40 seats if a fourth election were held today. 

    "Don't get over excited from the split of the Blue and White and the divisions in the leftist camp. The High Court of Justice is waiting for you just around the corner... don't play with fire... finalise a unity agreement for the sake of Israel and its sovereignty".

    They are not alone. According to a Channel 12 poll conducted a month ago when the Jewish state started implementing a series of measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, 65 percent of Israelis were supportive of a unity government, with 26 percent objecting to the idea.

    Unity Government? Not So Fast

    However, for unity to happen, Netanyahu and Gantz will need to agree on two major issues that so far have stalled any progress in talks. The first is Israel's sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

    The PM insists that the move should be done immediately after the formation of the government. Gantz, on the other hand, would like to wait to gain international recognition and support, a highly improbable scenario given the fact that the Jordan Valley that makes up some 30 percent of the West Bank and is considered Palestinian land by international law.

    The second point of friction is the dispute over the Justice Ministry. While Netanyahu wants to man the institution with his people, most probably in an attempt to evade trial, Gantz objects to the move demanding that it would be his party holding the keys to the post.

    In a bid to remove these obstacles and ink an agreement, Netanyahu and Gantz are set to meet later today, right before the Passover holidays when Israel goes into a full lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.

    The coalition talks have drawn flak from some politicians.

    Naftali Bennet, Israel's Defence Minister and the head of Yamina, said his party was no longer interested in remaining in Netanyahu's bloc.

    "Netanyahu sold the right-wing camp to save himself. But he will soon learn that his new partners that will hold the Justice Ministry's position will kick him out of Balfour [location of PM's residence - ed.] and when they do so, we will not be there [to give him a helping hand]", the statement read.

    Ordinary Israelis have also vented anger at the planned unity between the two.

    "Come on, coronavirus is not a good enough reason to establish a unity government... In Europe PM's manage their countries wearing pajamas and using Zoom... Go home!"

    "No unity government please. Gantz doesn't deserve it. Nor is he fit for the job of prime minister".

    General Polls Are Not Off the Table

    Others were highly doubtful a unity government was possible at all.

    One tweep wrote: "the left-wing is giving up on its policy 'anything but Bibi'. The right-wing gives up on all the values that are sacred to the bloc. For some reason I don't think this unity is going to work".

    Another Twitter follower wrote: "There will be no unity. Instead there are two realistic options. 1. The defection of Gideon Saar and his friends to the unity bloc and 2. Fourth round of elections. Another round of general polls is 99.9 percent probable... it is ideal for Bibi... as he will be able to continue serving as interim prime minister for another year".

    If by midnight on Wednesday, Gantz fails to reach an agreement with Netanyahu, the mandate will go back to the Knesset which will have to put forward a candidate that possesses the 61 signatures needed to form a government. 

    Given the fact that nobody has managed to do it so far, the chances that Israel will go to the polls again, most probably at the end of July, are high.

    Many Israelis object to the notion of another general vote that will cost taxpayers more than $800 million at a time when the unemployment rate has hit a record high of 25 percent.

    Others, however, prefer the polls over a unity government.

    "I am praying for another round so that politician like Orly Levy Abecassis, Amir Peretz... and Benny Gantz will fly straight to the garbage bin of Israeli politics and there will be no one to mourn for them".
    "I only want a fourth round. I will repeat myself. I want a fourth round of elections and I want the right-wing bloc to win...".
    Tags:
    unity government, general election, vote, polls, Israeli elections, Israel, Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu
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