Israel’s Gantz says he should be PM in Israel unity government

Netanyahu (L) is seeking to create a unity government with his main opponent Gantz (R) (AFP/Oded Balilty and Jack Guez)
Updated 19 September 2019

Israel’s Gantz says he should be PM in Israel unity government

  • Netanyahu earlier called for them to join together in a unity government as results from Tuesday’s vote
  • The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position

TEL AVIV: Benny Gantz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main opponent in the country’s general election, said Thursday he should be prime minister in a broad unity government.
Gantz spoke to journalists after Netanyahu called for them to join together in a unity government as results from Tuesday’s vote showed neither with an obvious path to form a majority coalition.
A senior Blue and White leader Moshe Yaalon also told reporters at an event attended by Gantz: “We will not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu.”

Making the surprise offer, Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party and Israel’s longest-serving leader, said in a video clip that in the run-up to Tuesday’s election, he had pledged to form a right-wing government.
“But to my regret, the election results show that this is impossible,” Netanyahu said. “Benny, we must set up a broad unity government, as soon as today. The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation.”
In subsequent comments, at a ceremony — which Gantz also attended — marking the third anniversary of the death of Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, Netanyahu said his offer came with no preconditions. A smiling Netanyahu and Gantz warmly shook hands at the event.
Netanyahu hinted at a possible rotating premiership deal with Gantz, noting that Peres, a left-wing leader, had forged a coalition with conservative Yitzhak Shamir in which they rotated top office between 1984 and 1988.
Netanyahu’s comments reflected his heightened political vulnerability after again failing to security a parliamentary majority, following an inconclusive election in April.
President Reuven Rivlin, who commands wide respect in Israel in his largely ceremonial position, said he welcomed Netanyahu’s unity call. Under Israeli law, Rivlin taps a party leader to try to form a government after the final vote tally is in.
The campaigns run by Netanyahu, 69, and Gantz, 60, pointed to only narrow differences on many important issues, and an end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to bring about significant changes in policy on relations with the United States, the regional struggle against Iran or the Palestinian conflict.
With Israeli media reporting more than 95 percent of votes counted in Tuesday’s election, a Likud-led right-wing, religious bloc looked poised to control 55 of parliament’s 120 seats, with 56 going to a center-left alliance.
On Wednesday, Gantz said he hoped for a “good, desirable unity government.” But he has also ruled out forming one with a Netanyahu-led Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

“Mr Clean“
Gantz is a newcomer to politics. Many voters saw him as a “Mr Clean,” an alternative to Netanyahu and the cloud of alleged criminal misdeeds hanging over him.
Netanyahu’s call for a broad government preceded a scheduled visit later on Thursday by Jason Greenblatt, an architect of US President Donald Trump’s as-yet unveiled plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a senior Likud member, said he believed Greenblatt was coming to discuss the peace blueprint.
Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, have rejected the Trump plan out of hand, accusing the president of pro-Israeli bias.
“As to whether he (Greenblatt) will be presenting the plan, I have no idea,” Hanegbi said on Army Radio.
With Israeli politics in flux, Netanyahu canceled his annual speech at the UN General Assembly next week, a spokesman said on Wednesday about a visit that might have provided an opportunity to meet with Trump.
Netanyahu highlighted his close ties with Trump in his election campaign. But in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Trump appeared to distance himself from Netanyahu, amid political stalemate in Israel.
He told reporters he had not spoken to Netanyahu since Tuesday’s ballot and said: “Our relationship is with Israel.”


LIVE: Middle East remains on high alert as coronavirus cases top a million worldwide

Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

LIVE: Middle East remains on high alert as coronavirus cases top a million worldwide

  • The virus has infected more than 1 million globally

DUBAI: Countries in the Middle East continue to take extra precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the virus infects more than one million globally.

The new global figures come as the West struggles with the most number of cases as of Friday – the US leads with more than 245,000 infections.

COVID-19 has killed more than 53,000 people globally.

Friday, April 3 (All times in GMT)

05:20 – Etihad Airways will resume regular service to several destinations on April 5, but are subject to government approvals, the airlines said in a statement.

05:07 – A curfew in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam, Taif and Qatif will start on Friday 3p.m. until further notice, state news agency SPA reported, citing Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior.

04:58 Thailand on Friday reported 103 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths, bringing its total number cases to 1,978, a health official said.

04:42 Curfew in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam, Taif, and Qatif to start at 3 p.m. local time.

04:33 – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 79,696, and deaths to 1,017.

03:32 – Kyrgyzstan has reported the first death due to COVID-19 in the country.

01:55 –  China has reported 31 new cases of coronavirus as of end of April 2 – four cases lower the on previous day. Four new deaths have also been confirmed – two cases lower than previous day. No new cases have been reported in China’s Hubei province, where the virus was first discovered.

Thursday April 2 (All times in GMT)

18:55 – The UAE has confirmed 210 new cases of coronavirus, bringing total to 1,024. A total 35 new recoveries have also been announced, making the number of recoveries rise to 96.