Israel president tasks Netanyahu to form new govt: statement

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tasked Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a new government after last week’s deadlocked elections, following a joint meeting between Rivlin, Netanyahu and the premier’s main challenger Benny Gantz. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2019

Israel president tasks Netanyahu to form new govt: statement

  • Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government
  • Neither Netanyahu or Gantz has a clear path to a majority coalition

JERUSALEM: Israel’s president on Wednesday tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming a new government after last week’s deadlocked elections, his office announced.
The announcement followed a joint meeting between President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu and the premier’s challenger Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government, with a possible two-week extension.
If all attempts fail, Rivlin can then assign the task to someone else.
Rivlin has been urging Netanyahu and Gantz to form a unity government, but a compromise appears a long way off.
Final results from September 17 elections gave Gantz’s centrist Blue and White 33 seats, ahead of Likud’s 32 out of parliament’s 120.
Neither has a clear path to a majority coalition.
Netanyahu received the endorsement of 55 members of parliament for the post of prime minister after the election, while Gantz received 54.


Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

Updated 21 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

  • Health personnel in protective gear took the temperature of disembarking passengers
  • Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Sunday started repatriating nationals stranded abroad in its first flight in weeks since it closed its international airport to stem the novel coronavirus.
The first of four planes touched down at the Beirut international airport late Sunday morning bringing in 78 passengers from Riyadh, local television reported.
It showed health personnel in protective gear taking the temperature of disembarking passengers.
The Mediterranean country announced a lockdown and closed its airport on March 18 as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 527 people and killed 18 nationwide.
An AFP photographer saw a dozen buses outside the airport waiting to transport the passengers.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab had arrived earlier amid heavy deployment of the Lebanese army, he said.
Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month.
Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines has said flights would also land in Beirut on Sunday from Abu Dhabi, Lagos and Abidjan.
It has also announced return trips to Paris, Madrid and Kinshasa on Tuesday.
Lebanese returning home must either test negative for the virus no longer than three days before their return, or be tested immediately upon arrival, according to government guidelines.
They must pay for their own ticket and their families are not allowed to meet them at the airport.
The government has said priority will be given to those with critical health conditions such as diabetes or cancer, those aged over 60 and under 18, and families.
But critics have complained of steep ticket fares, while a financial crisis has severely restricted transactions from Lebanese bank accounts.
Coronavirus is the latest crisis to hit Lebanon, which is already reeling under a crumbling economy.
Due to an acute liquidity crisis, banks have since September increasingly been restricting access to dollars and have halted money transfers abroad.
On Monday, however, the banking association agreed to allow dollar transfers to Lebanese students outside the country to help them face the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.
Diab on Sunday told reporters the government was studying the possibility of supporting returning Lebanese students with a ticket.
Lebanese expatriates and activists have clamoured online for MEA to lower the price of its tickets and help those who can’t afford it.
The airline on Friday claimed tickets were more expensive — $650 for an economy class seat from Riyadh and $1,800 for a cheaper fare from Abidjan for example — because planes would be empty on the way out to evacuations.