Bibi rival Gantz given mandate to form Israeli government

Jerusalem, Mar 16 (efe-epa).- Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz was on Monday given a mandate by the president to form a new government in Israel.

Gantz vowed to form a functioning executive within days to bring the country out of a political deadlock after three general elections in less than a year failed to deliver a majority for any party.

“I give you my word. I will do everything to form a government within days” Gantz said after being nominated by President Reuven Rivlin, adding that his new executive would be “patriotic.”

He said the Covid-19 crisis gave the country further impulse to end the political stalemate.

The leader of the Blue and White party, which came second to Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the 2 March re-run elections, now has 28 days to form a government with the backing of at least 61 lawmakers, the threshold for a simple majority in the Knesset.

But the task of forming a government is another challenge as different parties looking for a piece of the coalition table their suggestions, which often clash.

Gantz has the backing of Avigdor Lieberman, the former defence minister and leader of the nationalist Israel Our Home party, the leftist Labor-Gesher-Meretz movement and external support of the Arab List but each entity has ideological rifts with the next.

Another possibility for the former Chief of Staff is to form a unity government with Likud, as he had previously suggested.

If none of these options bears fruit, Gantz can ask Rivlin for a 14-day extension or hand the mandate over to another candidate, most likely Netanyahu.

Rivlin invited both party leaders to his residence on Sunday in a bid to convince them to put their differences aside and form a unity government, if only to tackle the pressing coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu previously offered Gantz a role in a unity coalition led by the long-serving PM but Gantz has rejected it so far.

This is the third set of coalition talks in less than a year.

A poll conducted by outlet Hadashot suggested that 65 percent of Israelis would support a unity government while 26 percent rejected the option.

Among Blue and White voters, support for a unity coalition stood at 59 percent, with 29 percent in opposition. EFE-EPA


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