Netanyahu calls on challenger Gantz to form a unity government together
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned his hopes of forming a new right-wing governing coalition and called on his rival Benny Gantz to form a unity government with him.
AFP, Jerusalem :
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on his main challenger Benny Gantz on Thursday to form a unity government together as election results showed both without an obvious path to a majority coalition.
Netanyahu, in a video message, said he preferred to form a right-wing coalition, but the results showed it was not possible.
The admission was a major development following Israel's general election on Tuesday that has put Netanyahu's status as the country's longest-serving prime minister at risk.
"During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government," Netanyahu said. "But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible."
He went on to call on Gantz to form a "broad unity government today."
Gantz had not yet responded, but he has repeatedly called for a unity government.
It is unclear however if he would accept such a government with Netanyahu, who faces possible corruption charges in the weeks ahead, remaining as prime minister.
A columnist in daily Ha'aretz has raised the question if Israel would be pushed towards a third round of polls.
The right-left distinction has never been so rigid in Israel.
"Therefore, there is no choice but to establish a wide unity government as wide as possible that's made up of all the officials that Israel called on," The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying.
Netanyahu also asked Gantz, 60, to meet with him as soon as possible to start the process.
"I call on you MK Benny Gantz. Benny, it's on us to establish a wide unity government today. The nation expects us, the both of us, to work together. Let's meet today. At any time, at any moment. In order to begin this process that is demanded of us at this time," said Netanyahu.
"We cannot and have no reason to go to a third election. I oppose it. The call of the hour is to form a broad unity government today," he said.
Netanyahu, 69, called the snap election after failing to form a governing coalition with a viable majority after April's vote.
His victory in the April 9 polls securing him a record fifth term proved temporary in the face of a logjam between potential coalition partners over a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students.
With no clear winner, some analysts here see the chances of a coalition government coming in place quite bleak at the moment.
The country has always had a coalition government and never seen a single party rule since its independence. The religious parties, themselves a divided lot but definitely on the Right side of the political spectrum, have always been a part of the coalition governments except one led by Ariel Sharon.
Labour party leader Amir Peretz and Democratic List leader Ehud Barak have served in governments led by Netanyahu at different times during the last ten and a half years. Then what has changed so much that the religious Right and the Left parties suddenly are reluctant to join hands.