Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the need for the nation’s leaders “to unite forces” and “form a unity government,” to help battle the spreading coronavirus.
The Likud leader appealed to his political rival Benny Gantz and the Blue and White party “to come under the stretcher, carry it together, lead it together, and together we will save the people and the state.”
Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gantz responded by accusing Netanyahu of making cynical use of the crisis for political reasons. Gantz, who is a former IDF Chief of Staff, highlighted his life-long mission to protect the citizens of Israel, and emphasized that all of the nation’s leaders are prepared to act together in efforts to combat COVID-19. “We are faced, this moment, with a health and economic crisis, at an hour which demands of all of us to act responsibly, as individuals and as a nation,” said Gantz.
“At times like these, I want to emphasize this: in spite of the fact that Israel lacks a functioning elected government,” said the Blue and White party leader, adding that, “in spite of all the background noise, when it comes to combating the corona(virus) we are all mobilized as one unit. And personally, it is also a major and dominant consideration in my political conduct.”
In other political developments, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, postponed the formation of the parliamentary committees in the wake of the 2 March elections, over accusations that Blue and White have been operating in bad faith. Edelstein claimed refusal by the faction to consider the good of the public forced to cope with the coronavirus had prompted his decision to close down the parliament until next Monday.
Blue and White leader Gantz responded by accusing the Likud of undermining the will of the Israeli public. “Alongside concerns over the state of our health care and our economy, I know that many of you are justly concerned, as I am,” he said in a video address to his followers and prospective coalition partners, “with the unprecedented, anti-democratic attempt by Netanyahu and Edelstein to forcibly bring the parliamentary activity of the Knesset to a halt.” Gantz slammed the “attempt to paralyze the Knesset” as “unacceptable and damaging to each and every citizen,” and vowed to appeal the matter to Israel’s Supreme Court.
While the Likud secured the most mandates in the third national elections, it could not secure a majority within the 120 seat Knesset. Blue and White immediately demanded to advance legislation to bar an indicted Member of Knesset (MK) from serving as premier, in a transparent effort to end Netanyahu’s grip on Jerusalem’s seat of power. In seeking to torpedo that effort, Knesset Speaker Edelstein refused to open the plenum or facilitate formation of the necessary committees to advance the bill. The move infuriated Blue and White, which has accused the Likud of undemocratic conduct over its refusal to transfer the power-reins of parliament.
“No crisis, no matter its scope, may be exploited as a means to trample upon values of national decorum and responsibility and to undermine the will of the voting public,” insisted Gantz, stressing that the “Likud lacks a majority in the Knesset – so it has gone ahead and closed it. We won’t allow that.”