image Photo: Flash90

Benny Gantz tasked with forming Israel’s next government

President Reuven Rivlin today officially mandated Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the formation of the next Israeli government.

The decision to appoint the political newcomer and former IDF Chief of Staff was announced after he was endorsed by 61 of the 120 Members of Knesset (MKs), in a sharp blow to current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who had previously declared himself the winner of the 2 March election.

President Reuven Rivlin held requisite consultations yesterday with all the winning political parties. Even though the centrist leader Gantz has been allotted the official time period to build a coalition, President Rivlin urged him to take less time due to the coronavirus crisis. “The law gives you 28 days, starting tomorrow, for forming a government. This is a short period – but given the current circumstances of a national and global emergency – it is too long,” he said, underscoring that “The urgency of the hour and the size of the challenges before us demand that we form a government in Israel.”

President Rivlin also stressed the critical importance of forming a viable government is, saying that “a fourth round of elections are not possible and the keys to forming a government in Israel are currently in your hands and those of all elected officials from all parties.”

Agreeing that “we simply cannot allow a fourth rounds of elections, which would be critically damaging to the Israeli people at this juncture, Gantz gave his word “to do everything to form a government – national, patriotic, and as broad as possible — in a matter of days, as few days as possible,” that would “serve all of Israel’s citizens.”

Saying “these are unusual times. Unlike any other we’ve experienced” and that “Israel is at the onset of severe crisis,” the Blue and White Party Chairman called on the nation’s leaders “to put their personal considerations aside.” He vowed to “protect the interests of the people of Judea and Samaria, along with the interests of Israel’s Arab citizens, of the people of Israel’s social and geographic periphery, and the people of central Israel,” and to “lead the government in healing Israeli society from the effects of the Coronavirus epidemic, as well as from the epidemic of divisiveness and hate.

Israel has not had a functioning government since 2018, and none of the candidates succeeded in negotiating coalitions following the previous, unprecedented two elections this past year.

By breakdown, the 61 MKs who recommended Benny Gantz during the presidential consultations are as follows. The Blue and White delegation headed by MK Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, MK Karin Elharrar and MK Avi Nissenkorn recommended their party chief, with 33 mandates. They were followed by the next largest-faction, the Joint Arab List, led by MK Ayman Odeh, MK Ahmad Tibi, MK Mansour Abbas and Mansour Dahamshe, with 15.  Next were representatives of Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by MK Avigdor Lieberman with MK Oded Forer, with 7; and 6 from the Labor-Meretz-Gesher faction, headed by MK Amir Peretz and MK Nitzan Horowitz. It should be noted that the 7-mandate total Labor alliance included the only MK, Orly Levy-Abekasis, who chose not to endorse either candidate to form the government.

The 58 MKs who supported the current prime minister MK Benjamin Netanyahu, belonged to the following parties.  The Premier’s Likud, headed by Minister Yariv Levin, Minister Yisrael Katz and faction manager Aliza Broshi, with 36; followed by the ultra-Orthodox Shas, headed by Minister Aryeh Deri, MK Yoav Ben Tzur and party director-general Chaim Biton, with 9. The Yamina- Jewish Home alliance, headed by MK Ayelet Shaked with MK Ofir Sofer and Nir Orbach, respectively, also recommended Netanyahu, with 6; as did the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, headed by Minister Yaakov Litzman, with MK Moshe Gafni, MK Meir Porush and MK Uri Maklev, with 7.