Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday tasked Israeli parliament with forming a government after its centrist speaker Benny Gantz failed to reach a unity deal with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gantz had run on a promise not to serve in a government with Netanyahu, citing the prime minister’s indictment on corruption charges. Netanyahu denies those charges.
But in a reversal that dismayed many of his supporters, Gantz said the coronavirus crisis had made a national emergency government with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party an imperative.
“The political, health and social crisis have brought me to the decision that even at a heavy political and personal price, I will do all I can to establish a government with the Likud,” Gantz wrote in a letter to the president, published by his party.
After he was elected speaker late last month, the ex-military chief pledged to forge an emergency unity government with the veteran premier who has been in office since 2009.
Gantz conceded that Netanyahu would lead that government as prime minister, at least to begin with, as Israel confronts the coronavirus pandemic.
After assuring President Reuven Rivlin that they were close to an agreement, Gantz and Netanyahu were given until the end of Wednesday to reach a deal.
The deadline passed without any announcement of a breakthrough, although a joint statement issued on Thursday said the talks were ongoing.
“Upon finalization of the meeting between the respective negotiating teams last night, it was concluded to continue discussions today, with the aim of reaching an agreement toward the establishment of a national emergency government,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Rivlin officially informed Gantz that his mandate had expired.
The president noted that neither Gantz nor Netanyahu currently has the backing of a majority of lawmakers in Israel’s deeply divided 120-member parliament.
But as the country grapples with the coronavirus, Rivlin implored lawmakers to find a solution that enables Israel to avoid a fourth election.
With more than 12,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 140 deaths, Israel’s tight restrictions on movement aimed at curbing the coronavirus spread have forced many businesses to shut down and have sent unemployment rates soaring to about 25%.
Source: The Palestine Chronicle