By design or not, Gaza escalation increases chance of unity government

Opposition leader MK Benny Gantz on Tuesday said the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip will not affect his ongoing negotiations to form a coalition.

“This action will have no effect on the political processes taking place,” said Gantz, giving a statement in support of Israel’s early-morning airstrike killing a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist in the Gaza Strip.

But Gantz is wrong. And he knows it.

With just eight days remaining for Gantz to form a government, and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the ensuing operation in Gaza “could take a long time,” the action will have a deep effect on the political processes taking place.

President Reuven Rivlin tasked Gantz with attempting to form a coalition after Netanyahu failed in the wake of the September 17 elections. But Gantz’s chances of succeeding where the prime minister failed always appear to be slim, with Netanyahu’s bloc of supporting lawmakers from his Likud, right-wing and religious parties refusing to budge.

Up until Tuesday, Gantz had three options: form a unity government with the Likud with a rotating premiership shared with Netanyahu; form a minority government with the outside support of the Joint List party; or accept defeat — a move that would likely spell the third round of elections in a year.