Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White party, has rejected an offer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join forces in a governing coalition under the incumbent.
Gantz, Netanyahu’s main opponent in Israel’s general election, told reporters he should be the prime minister in a broad unity government.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 19, 2019
With more than 97 percent of the vote counted, the centrist Blue and White party has 33 seats, while Netanyahu’s Likud party is behind with 31, falling way short of the majority figure of 61.
Gantz, a former army chief, made remarks after Netanyahu called for them to join together in a unity government as results from Tuesday’s deadlocked election showed neither with an obvious path to form a majority coalition.
Moshe Yaalon, a senior Blue and White party leader, said on Thursday his party “will not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu”.
— Bunkunin, Insurgent Bunny (@bunkybun) September 19, 2019
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the party’s rejection of the offer.
Earlier, President Reuven Rivlin, who is tasked with approving a new government, welcomed Netanyahu’s overture.
“I congratulate you, Mr. Prime Minister, on your joining in this call. This is an important call,” Rivlin said in a speech attended by Netanyahu and Gantz.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday at a possible rotating premiership deal with election challenger Benny Gantz after inviting his centrist rival to join him in government. pic.twitter.com/xfUh5YmBco
— BBS (@_bbsnews) September 19, 2019
In a televised appearance, Netanyahu said earlier on Thursday he had been calling for the creation of a right-wing government but the results of the election proved that will not be possible.
“The people did not fully decide between the two blocs,” Netanyahu said of his and Gantz’s parties.
“Now I call on you, Benny Gantz, we have to create a wide-based unity government today. The people expect from us to be responsible, to cooperate, and that’s why I’m calling on you Benny. Let’s meet today, anytime, to ignite this move.”
Israel’s Benny Gantz declares win after near-final election results show deadlock https://t.co/OFgVMRsL2b
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) September 19, 2019
On Wednesday, Gantz said he hoped for a “good, desirable unity government”, but had ruled out forming one with a Netanyahu-led Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister, who denies any wrongdoing.
According to the electoral commission, 69.4 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote on Tuesday in Israel’s second general election since April’s polls.
Gantz widens lead over Netanyahu with 98 percent of vote counted https://t.co/NicJEOU2lT
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) September 19, 2019
The Arab Joint List, an alliance of four smaller parties representing Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, has become the third-largest bloc with 12 seats.
Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to win nine seats.
In remarks made a day earlier, Netanyahu said he would seek the establishment of a new “Zionist” government that excludes Arab parties.
(Al Jazeera, PC, Social Media)