Published: Thu, September 19, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Netanyahu calls for Israeli unity government with rival Benny Gantz

Netanyahu calls for Israeli unity government with rival Benny Gantz

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. Neither party, however, can muster a majority coalition of 61 seats with their smaller allies.

"During the elections I called for establishing a right-wing government", Netanyahu said in a statement Thursday morning.

The latest results from Tuesday's vote suggest his Likud party won 31 seats, while his opponent Benny Gantz's Blue and White party garnered 32 seats, the Kan public broadcaster says.

"We can not and there is no reason to go to third elections", he added.

Neither party can form a majority government without the support of the election's apparent kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitenu party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's long grip on power appeared in jeopardy on Wednesday after elections left him tied with his main challenger Benny Gantz raising the prospect of tough negotiations to build a unity government or even the end of the premier's long rule.

One situation is a "unity government" by which Likud and Blue and White share energy, presumably with a rotating schedule for prime minister and different high jobs. But the fiercely loyal Likud is unlikely to oust Netanyahu.

Now this longtime Netanyahu ally turned rival is demanding that Likud form a secular national unity government with Blue and White, excluding the religious parties, and threatening that if it doesn't he could support Gantz in forming a government without Likud. He shrugged off Netanyahu's offer as "spin".

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There was no immediate response from Blue and White.

Gantz, addressing supporters in Tel Aviv, called for a "broad unity government" but cautioned that he was waiting for final results.

With this, Netanyahu was also making a key point about himself, an argument that has stood the test of time: He is the only one who can effectively protect the Israelis from the numerous threats that pervade the region and domestically.

First came the do-over voting.

The candidate has 42 days to do so and, if he fails, the president can give another candidate 28 days to form a coalition. But an election loss could leave him more at risk of prosecution in the graft cases, without the shield of parliamentary immunity that his current political allies had promised to seek for him.

After failing to form a government in May following April's similarly inconclusive elections, Netanyahu preempted President Reuven Rivlin's right to call on another member of the Knesset to try and form a government, by forcing a bill through the Knesset calling for fresh elections.

Israeli political analyst Mayer Cohen said the results showed that voters were exhausted of Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister. But if it gets over the hurdle, the prime minister could have his majority. Lieberman has long relied on the votes of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are right-wing on security issues but hostile to the influence of the religious parties aligned with Netanyahu, and the electoral math in April gave him a unique opportunity to sabotage the prime minister.

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