Despite gaining fewer votes than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, rival party leader Benny Gantz, was given the first opportunity to form a new government after a third inconclusive election in less than a year.
President Reuven Rivlin announced his decision on Monday. Gantz’s Blue and White received a slim majority of 61 recommendations from other Knesset members — many of whom are simply seeking to oust Netanyahu, such as the Arab parties.
“I give you my word: I will do everything to establish within days, as few as I can, a national government, one that is as patriotic and broad as possible,” he said.
Rivlin has urged both Netanyahu and Gantz to quickly try to form a unity government.
“Anyone who has watched the news in recent days understands that this is a time of trial, and that these are not regular consultations,” Rivlin said. “We must now deal with forming a government as soon as possible … at this complex time.”
If Gantz cannot form a government and he and Netanyahu cannot reach a unity deal, the country could go to a fourth round of elections.
Despite receiving more votes, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition only numbered 58. He would need at least 61 to have a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Gantz received more recommendations from fellow Knesset members, but will have a hard time forming a coalition nevertheless. The parties that endorsed him range from the secular right-wing Israel Beytenu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, to the Joint List, a compilation of Arab party members.
Lieberman has vowed he would not join a government with the Arab parties. And the Arab parties, of which many members have declared their hatred of Israel, will make unreasonable demands of Gantz in exchange for their support.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu, who was supposed to go on trial this week for bribery and other charges, got a reprieve when a court postponed his case until May thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
My landlord said to me, “I want a Prime Minister is such a genius, that he can conjure up a virus to delay his court day. That is my kind of a Prime Minister.” Humor has long been a coping mechanism here in Israel for terror. Now we use it to deal with the virus.
The Knesset was sworn in in an eerie ceremony with only three Knesset members inducted at a time due to government restrictions on public gatherings in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.