Israeli President gives former military chief mandate to form government
Jerusalem, March 16 (PTI): Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday formally tasked former military chief Benny Gantz to form the next government after 61 out of the 120 newly elected parliament members recommended his name to head the next government.
Accepting the President’s offer, Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party, vowed to “form a national unity government” within days which will be representing voters of all parties as he called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join his party’s efforts “to heal the Israeli society”.
“I’ll do everything to form in as few days as possible a national, patriotic and broad government,” said 60-year-old Gantz.
“I will serve the voters of all of the parties and all the citizens of Israel. I will lead the effort to heal the society from the corona illness, as well as from the illness of division and hatred,” Gantz said in reference to the vitriolic campaign during Israel’s third parliamentary election within a year.
“These are not normal days,” he said, in an apparent reference to the spread of the novel coronavirus which has killed more than 6,000 people and infected thousands across the world.
Israel has recorded 200 confirmed cases of Covid-19, but no deaths.
“Leaders must put aside personal considerations,” Gantz said.
“I extend my elbow,” the Blue and White leader said, referring to the new guidelines barring handshakes.
Touching upon Netanyahu’s upcoming corruption trial, Gantz said, “this process has been accompanied by illegitimate efforts by the current prime minister to evade justice. No man is bigger than the Israeli Zionist project”.
Netanyahu, 70, has denied all charges against him.
Earlier in a surprise development, the Blue and White party leader’s name was recommended to the President by the group of Arab parties, the Joint List, and ultra-nationalist leader Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu party alongwith the left of Centre Meretz and Labour party.
Lieberman has in the past called the Arab leaders “enemies” and vowed not to sit with them in a government which would make Gantz’s efforts to cobble a government together with the support of 61 members a herculean task given that the right-wing bloc of 58 members have solidly stood behind Likud Party leader Netanyahu.
Political sources said that the former army chief is likely to first try to pass a law in the Knesset to debar anyone under criminal investigation from heading a government and then try to form a broad national unity government.
The effort will not be easy given several legal and technical hindrances.
Gantz will have 28 days to pull together a coalition of at least 61 votes in his favour or Rivlin can give him another 14 days before tasking somebody else to form the next government.
“We must not have a fourth election,” Gantz said.
Several analysts do not rule out the possibility of a fourth round of elections even though almost all the political leaders have vowed to break the current deadlock. Netanyahu had the support of 60 members in the Knesset after the April 9 polls, the first out of the three within a year, but he could not manage to win just one more member to form a government.