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Netanyahu Gantz Rivlin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz shake hands at a memorial service for Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin looks on, Sept. 19, 2019.

As coalition negotiations appear to have failed, potentially leading Israel into an unprecedented third round of national elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared Wednesday for a pre-indictment hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners—Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism—are believed to support legislation which would protect sitting Israeli prime ministers from prosecution. However, the parties comprise just 55 seats, not enough to seal a coalition deal.

As Netanyahu met with leaders of those parties Wednesday to discuss the deadlock, his 10-person legal team presented their case to Mandelblit and other justice officials Wednesday morning.

Netanyahu was scheduled to make a last-ditch effort Wednesday night to entice the Blue and White Party into a coalition deal, but party leader Benny Gantz canceled the meeting Tuesday night, saying there was no evidence Netanyahu was willing to enter into a power-sharing agreement with him. Lower officials from both Likud and Blue and White also cancelled scheduled meetings.

Blue and White said it would not proceed under the precondition that the religious parties and the right-wing Yamina alliance be automatically included in negotiations.

Likud responded that Gantz’s party had decided to “go to elections” and blamed Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid for standing in the way of a rotation agreement between Netayahu and Gantz.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had suggested an agreement by which Netayahu and Gantz would each serve two years as prime minister, but the parties have apparently been unable to determine which would serve first.

Due to the deadlock, Netanyahu is believed to be preparing to return the mandate to form a coalition to to Rivlin early, opening the door to Gantz to try to form a government.

Despite Israel’s coalition quagmire, the attorney general’s office has decided to go ahead with hearings against Netanyhau on charges of fraud and breach of trust in three cases. Netanyahu has consistently maintained his innocence in all the cases, calling them a politically-motivated witch hunt.

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