Israel’s President Calls on Benjamin Netanyahu’s Rival, Benny Gantz, to Form a Government

Netanyahu Rivlin Gantz (Koby Gideon, GPO)
Koby Gideon, GPO

TEL AVIV – President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday announced that he has called on Benny Gantz to form a government after the Blue and White leader beat out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and received the majority of endorsements for the premiership.

Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman joined the 15-seat Arab-majority Joint List and the 6-seat Labor-Gesher-Meretz parties in endorsing Blue and White leader Gantz as a candidate for prime minister, totaling 61 recommendations and beating out Netanyahu’s 58.

Liberman has proposed a unity government of the two major parties only, a move that will likely be rejected because it would mean the end of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc.

However, Rivlin has also called for talks between the two rival politicians to form an emergency unity government to weather the coronavirus crisis.

While Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party was the largest in the Knesset, gaining 36 seats in the election earlier this month compared with Blue and White’s 33, his party’s bloc missed the parliamentary majority of 61 needed to form a government.

The Joint List on Sunday stressed that it was recommending Gantz as prime minister on the condition that he form a center-left government to replace Netanyahu, and not for a unity government.

“We will be its biggest opponents,” party leader Aymen Odeh said of a unity government.

Two hawkish members of the Blue and White party, Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, have said they would not join a government endorsed by the Joint List. Gantz will likely try and negotiate with the two to change their position, thereby increasing his chances of meeting the parliamentary majority.

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