Israel’s president to ask Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz to form government

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Opposition leader Benny Gantz will be asked to form a new government, Israel’s president said on Sunday, boosting his chances of ousting veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The announcement came at the end of a day in which Rivlin held consultations with all parties in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

It was a blow to Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life amid unprecedented political deadlock and a criminal indictment for corruption, which he denies.

But it remains unclear whether Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party can break a stalemate that has been marked by three inconclusive elections in less than a year.

Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving leader and has been heading the country’s efforts to combat the coronavirus.

But last year he twice tried unsuccessfully to put together a ruling coalition.

And on Sunday Gantz won support from two key parties, leading President Reuven Rivlin to say that he would get the first chance at forming a government after the latest election on March 2.

As things stand, a Gantz coalition would likely have to be underpinned by two bitter enemies, who have both endorsed him.

One is the Joint List, a coalition of lawmakers from Israel’s 21% Arab minority, and the other is hawkish former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu.

Netanyahu, 70, was due to go on trial this Tuesday, but the coronavirus emergency has promoted restrictions of gatherings that delayed the start of proceedings for alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. He has denied any wrongdoing, accusing his enemies of a witch-hunt.

Netanyahu proposed a six-month “national emergency” government, led by him, to confront the coronavirus crisis.

Read more via Reuters

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