Netanyahu’s chief rival promises 'broad' government 'within a few days'

Israel’s president has tapped Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with forming a new government after the third election in less than a year produced no clear winner.

al-monitor Blue and White leader Benny Gantz gestures as he stands next to his party co-leader Moshe Yaalon at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 3, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Corinna Kern.

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reuven rivlin, indictment, benny gantz, benjamin netanyahu, likud, blue and white party, israeli elections

Mar 16, 2020

In a serious blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political ambitions, Israel’s president has tasked retired army chief Benny Gantz with forming a new government. 

After receiving the endorsement of 61 lawmakers in the country’s 120-seat Knesset during consultations Sunday, Reuven Rivlin has given Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White Party came up short in Israel’s March 2 elections, 28 days to form a new government.

“I give you my word, I will do all in my ability to establish within a few days as broad and patriotic a government as possible,” Gantz said during a televised nomination ceremony Monday. 

Israel has held three inconclusive elections in less than a year. Gantz called on Netanyahu, who declared victory after his Likud party won just 36 seats earlier this month, to join him in a unity administration.

"It's time to set aside our swords and unite our tribes and defeat hatred,” said Gantz.

But in a tweet on Sunday, the 70-year-old Likud leader proposed an alternative: Gantz can join him in either a six-month emergency government led by Netanyahu or in a unity government with Netanyahu as prime minister for two more years, followed by Gantz.

“Faced with global and national emergencies, we must unite forces and establish a strong and stable government that can pass a budget and make tough decisions,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. 

Netanyahu and his supporters have argued that he is the best qualified to lead the country amid its coronavirus crisis, which so far has infected more than 250 Israelis and forced tens of thousands more to self-quarantine. But Netanyahu’s rivals have questioned his motives.

The prime minister was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases accusing him of accepting gifts from wealthy businessmen and offering regulatory favors in exchange for favorable media coverage. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and has called the trial a politically motivated “witch hunt” orchestrated by his leftist rivals, the media and state prosecutors.

His trial, which was scheduled to begin this week, was postponed by more than two months amid coronavirus concerns.

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