Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue & White party, on Saturday asked the country’s president for a two-week extension as he tries to form a coalition government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The political, health and social crisis have brought me to the decision that even at a heavy political and personal price, I will do all I can to establish a government with the Likud," Gantz wrote in a letter to the president, published by his party.
Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief rival in three elections over the past year, was given the task by Israel’s president last month of forming a new government after winning the backing of a narrow majority of members of the newly elected parliament.
But in an abrupt about-face, Gantz later said he would seek to form an “emergency” government with Netanyahu’s Likud party to confront a growing coronavirus crisis. His decision caused his Blue and White alliance to disintegrate, leaving him at the helm of a diminished version of the party.
The emergency government is expected to leave Netanyahu in the prime minister’s post for a year and a half, before the job rotates to Gantz. After initial signs of progress, talks between Gantz and Netanyahu hit a snag last week.
Gantz faces a Monday deadline for reaching a deal. He announced late Saturday that he would ask the country’s figurehead president, Reuven Rivlin, for a two-week extension.
“I believe that we are close to signing an agreement, and that with additional time an agreement can be finalized,” he said.
Earlier, Netanyahu called for an immediate resumption of talks in an atmosphere of “good will.”
A failure to reach a deal could plunge the country into a fourth consecutive election in just over a year.