Israel’s Rival Leaders Get Extension on Power-Sharing Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz have received a two-day extension to try to seal a power-sharing deal.

President Reuven Rivlin agreed to extend Gantz’s mandate to form a government until midnight Wednesday after the rivals signaled that an agreement was near. The country has been mired in more than a year of political gridlock wrought by three inconclusive elections, and Netanyahu and Gantz have invoked the need for unity to fight the coronavirus outbreak and avert a fourth round of voting.

Unity government negotiations had faltered after Netanyahu demanded veto power over the appointment of judges, a tool he could use to control which justices are involved in his three corruption cases. Before the extension request was announced, the Ynet news website reported that Netanyahu’s allies in the six-seat Yamina party ended their partnership in his nationalist-religious bloc, citing what they said were his concessions to former military chief Gantz regarding the courts.

The nationalist party with a largely religious constituency wants to weaken the country’s Supreme Court, which currently has the power to override legislation.

The urgency to form a governing coalition and avoid another round of voting has grown as the toll from the coronavirus mounts. The number of confirmed cases has topped 11,000, with more than 110 dead. A near-lockdown has crippled the economy, which is forecast to shrink by 5.3% this year, according to the Bank of Israel.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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