Israel's president to ask Netanyahu rival Gantz to form government

Last Modified Monday, 16 March 2020 (11:53 IST)
Israel's president will ask Netanyahu rival to form the country’s next government, the third attempt in less than a year. Some are calling for an "emergency" government to deal with the coronvirus outbreak.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday will formally ask ex-military chief Benny Gantz to form a government, after several lawmakers said they would support the opposition leader.
"Tomorrow, around midday, the president will assign the task of forming the government to (the) head of Kachol Lavan... Benny Gantz," Rivlin's office said in a statement Sunday, referring to Gantz's centrist party by its Hebrew name.
Rivlin announced his decision on Sunday after consulting with leaders of all parties currently represented in Israel's parliament, and after an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel's president is responsible for selecting the candidate he believes has the best chance of securing a parliamentary majority, thereby forming a government.
Netanyahu's Likud party came out as the largest party in elections held on March 2, the country's third in less than a year. But consultations with other parties on Sunday revealed that, with the support of only 48 lawmakers, his party was three seats short of the number required to form a parliamentary majority.
Gantz's Blue and White party had the support of 61 seats, giving him a slim majority.
Coronavirus threat raises the stakes
The president's request that Gantz form a government is not, however, a guarantee that he will be able to do so. The disparate parties that supported Gantz on Sunday have previously failed to agree on conditions for a stable government following two inconclusive elections last year. His supporters include the predominantly Arab Joint List and the ultra-nationalist Beitenu.
Once the request is made, Gantz will have a month to form a government.
Israel has faced increasing pressure to form a government as the threat of coronavirus grows in the country. Some politicians have called for an "emergency" unity government to address the outbreak. Netanyahu, as interim premier, has invited Gantz to join him in doing so.Gantz has said he is open to the idea, but also dismissed the offer as insincere.
Along with new elections and a global pandemic, Netanyahu is also currently in the midst of a legal trial related to charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes. His next court date was pushed back to the end of May due to health measure related to the coronavirus outbreak. New emergency health restrictions have banned the gathering of people in public (AFP,AP)