Israel: Gantz holds out on power-sharing deal with Netanyahu

Last Modified Monday, 23 March 2020 (11:49 IST)
has offered to share a three-year term and quit next year so his rival can take charge. The PM thinks the deal is done, but the Blue and White leader is staying silent.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his rival in this month's election has agreed to a power-sharing deal to end a year-long political deadlock.
The center-right Likud party leader told Israeli TV on Saturday night that the pair will form an "emergency" unity government for a three-year term to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the deal that has yet to be signed, Netanyahu would step down after 18 months allowing Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to become prime minister.
The Israeli leader said his party would retain the financial portfolio and that the justice minister position would be "mutually agreed."
Deal not sealed
In a clue that the deal hasn't been fully sealed, Gantz responded to the interview by tweeting: "Whoever wants unity doesn't work with ultimatums, doesn't use biased leaks and certainly doesn't hurt democracy and citizens." 
The two sides are still trying to form a government following Israel's third inconclusive election in under a year on March 2. 
Netanyahu’s Likud emerged as the largest single party, but fell short of securing a required majority in parliament.
While Gantz has received the most parliamentary support, it's unclear whether he can form a governing coalition within a three-week deadline.
Other senior Blue and White politicians are also skeptical of Netanyahu's offer and fear he could refuse to step down as promised.
No 'shticks or tricks'
During Saturday's interview, the prime minister insisted he would quit on time without "any shticks or tricks." 
has confirmed nearly 900 cases of coronavirus and last week reported its first death.
The country has enacted some of the harshest measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Residents have been ordered to stay at home and their movements are being tracked. The court system and parliament have been effectively shut down. 
Opponents claim the measures are politicial, aimed at blocking efforts to replace the parliament speaker and to prevent the anti-Netanyahu bloc from pushing through its legislative agenda.
Netanyahu, was due to go on trial for alleged corruption, is also benefiting from the shut down. His court case has been delayed, but he could instead face new legislation preventing him from serving as prime minister.
Gantz is keen to push through the legislation that would prevent any politician accused of a crime of holding (AFP, AP, Reuters)