Israeli president hands Gantz chance to form government

AFP , Sunday 15 Mar 2020

Benny Gantz (Photo: Reuters)

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin will on Monday formally ask Benny Gantz to try to form the country's next government, after the ex-military chief secured recommendations from a majority of lawmakers.

"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, using the Hebrew name for Gantz's centrist Blue and White party.

An official tally from Rivlin's office said 61 lawmakers recommended Gantz, with 58 supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after a third general election in less than a year held on March 2. Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is comprised of 120 seats.

But there is no guarantee that the disparate forces who supported Gantz on Sunday will agree terms on a stable coalition, something that proved impossible following the two inconclusive elections last year.

On top of support from Blue and White and a smaller centre-left alliance, Gantz was also recommended by the mainly Arab Joint List and the secular, nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Aside from being anti-Netanyahu, the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu have almost no political common ground.

Netanyahu's alliance, seen as more cohesive, includes his right-wing Likud as well as its religious, nationalist ally Yemina and two ultra-Orthodox parties.

Rivlin also summoned both Gantz and Netanyahu for talks to take place later on Sunday, following calls for a unity alliance to confront the deadly new coronavirus.

A presidency statement said Rivlin wanted to have "an urgent conversation this evening... regarding the possibility of immediately establishing a government."

Rivlin has previously stressed the need to avoid a fourth election and stressed the urgency of quickly forming a government to combat the pandemic.

"This is a time of trial," Rivlin said earlier Sunday.

"We must now deal with forming a government as soon as possible, (so) that we lead our people at this complex time."

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