Israeli president tasks Benny Gantz with forming government

Israel’s former military chief Benny Gantz has received an official mandate to form the country’s next government but has few options after last month’s elections left him in a near tie with Netanyahu. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 October 2019

Israeli president tasks Benny Gantz with forming government

  • Gantz is the first politician other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to receive such a mandate since 2009
  • Following deadlocked elections on September 17, Netanyahu had tried to form a coalition, but finally gave up on Monday — his second such failure this year

JERUSALEM: Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin tasked ex-military chief Benny Gantz on Wednesday with forming a new governing coalition and bringing Israel out of the longest political impasse in its history.
Gantz is the first politician other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to receive such a mandate since 2009.
Following deadlocked elections on September 17, Netanyahu had tried to form a coalition, but finally gave up on Monday — his second such failure this year.
At a press conference in Jerusalem, Rivlin called on political parties to make “concessions,” while Gantz promised to “try to form a liberal union government.”
He is expected to face difficulties in forming a majority coalition, despite expressing confidence he can reach a deal for a unity government.
He will have 28 days to try and if he too fails, Rivlin can ask parliament to agree on another candidate for prime minister.
If that also fails to produce a new government, Israel could face yet another election — its third in the space of a year.
“We must behave responsibly toward Israeli citizens and avoid new elections,” Gantz said Wednesday, adding that there would be room for “all elements of Israeli society” in his coalition.
Gantz presents himself as a leader who can heal Israel’s divisions, which he says Netanyahu has exacerbated.
A 60-year-old former paratrooper, Gantz had no previous political experience when he declared himself Netanyahu’s electoral rival in December.
He was born on June 9, 1959, in Kfar Ahim, a southern Israeli village that his immigrant parents, both Holocaust survivors, helped to establish.
He joined the army in 1977, completing the tough selection course for paratroopers.
According to his official army biography, he was Israel’s military attache to the United States from 2005 until 2009.
He was chief of staff from 2011 to 2015, when he retired, and has boasted in video clips of the number of Palestinian militants killed and targets destroyed under his command in the 2014 war with Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers.
A security hawk, he is determined — like Netanyahu — to keep the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank under Israeli control and to maintain Israeli sovereignty over annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
The two are also in step on external threats, such as from archfoe Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Gantz has pledged to improve public services and show “zero tolerance” for corruption — a reference to graft allegations facing Netanyahu.
Negotiators from Gantz’s Blue and White party and Netanyahu’s Likud party will meet Thursday, according to Likud.
Both the Likud and Blue and White say they want a big-tent coalition, but they are divided on how to achieve it.
The Likud has been seeking to negotiate based on a compromise set out by Rivlin that takes into account the possibility the premier will be indicted on corruption charges in the coming weeks.
It could see Netanyahu remain prime minister for now, but step aside at some point later as he fights the charges.
Gantz would take over as acting premier under such a scenario.
Blue and White says Gantz should be prime minister first under any rotation arrangement, since his party won the most seats, finishing with 33 compared to the Likud’s 32 in the 120-seat parliament.
Rivlin promised Wednesday night that he would do everything possible to avoid a third election.

Egypt welcomes 6,000 tourists after resuming flights

Passengers wearing protective face masks sit on a plane at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, Egypt, June 20, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 1 min 51 sec ago

Egypt welcomes 6,000 tourists after resuming flights

  • No COVID-19 cases detected

CAIRO: Egypt received 6,000 tourists at the beginning of July after resuming flights that were previously suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said people from Switzerland, Ukraine and Belarus made up the greatest percentage of tourists in Egypt during this period.

It added that, as of Friday morning, not a single case of COVID-19 had been detected among the foreign visitors.

Suha Bahgat, a ministry spokeswoman, told Arab News that this was an indication the country was recovering and a sign of the gradual return of tourism to pre-pandemic days.

Bahgat said that the arrival of the number of tourists indicated their full trust in Egypt in terms of the precautionary measures taken by the government which had won the admiration of other countries.

She added that the country had made concerted efforts to restore the Egyptian tourism sector and was facilitating its return by implementing a set of precautionary measures and controls to improve Egypt’s image in foreign countries.

She was expecting that Egyptian tourism would gradually increase during the coming period “because the return of tourism is not just happening in Egypt, but in the whole world. It is also linked to the criteria set by the countries in which the tourists come from.”

Bahgat explained that it was necessary for tourists to adhere to the standards set by the government. The ministry's website includes instructions and controls to maintain tourist safety as well as the safety of those in tourist destinations.

Tamer Makram, president of the South Sinai Investors Association, confirmed that the tourist groups arriving in Egypt at the beginning of the week had started to leave for their home countries without any positive coronavirus cases, neither among those departing nor those currently in the country who were “enjoying their vacation by the beaches of Egypt.”

Makram said the tourists expressed their enjoyment in Sharm El-Sheikh and singled out Egypt’s warm weather, open areas and the precautions set by the government as an ideal country for their tourist trips.

They said they would tell their friends and colleagues of the hotels’ commitment to the health and safety regulations announced by the government, according to Makram.

Egypt is working on restoring tourism in the country to how it was prior to the pandemic. Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani said that Egypt had shown flexibility in dealing with the crises the country had witnessed during the past two decades.

Al-Anani said that Europeans made up nearly 60 percent of Egypt’s tourism last year. “The Egyptian state is seeking to create new tourist destinations inside the country by expanding the establishment of archeological museums and establishing new cities such as El-Alamein, which is expected to be one of the most significant tourist destinations in Egypt in the coming years,” he said.

In 2019 Egypt received nearly 2 million tourists from Germany and 1.5 million tourists from Ukraine.

He announced that Egypt would launch a number of important archaeological projects that had been in the pipeline for years. Some projects were suspended but have resumed, “an indicator of the government’s interest in the tourism and antiquities sector as those projects represent a new addition to Egyptian tourist destinations,” he added.

On June 14 Egypt announced that it would reopen three governorates to tourism and international flights in July, including Red Sea resorts in Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh as well as Marsa Matrouh, which overlooks the Mediterranean.