Israel’s president to ask Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz to form government

Politics

Opposition leader Benny Gantz will be asked to form a new government, Israel’s president said on Sunday, boosting his chances of ousting veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It was a blow to Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life amid unprecedented political deadlock and a criminal indictment for corruption, which he denies.

But it remains unclear whether Gantz’s centrist Blue and White Party can break a stalemate that has been marked by three inconclusive elections in less than a year.

Netanyahu, 70, is Israel’s longest-serving leader and has been heading the country’s efforts to combat the coronavirus.

But last year he twice tried unsuccessfully to put together a ruling coalition.

And on Sunday Gantz won support from two key parties, leading President Reuven Rivlin to say that he would get the first chance at forming a government after the latest election on March 2.

“Tomorrow, around midday, the president will assign the task of forming the government to the head of (Blue and White party) Benny Gantz,” Rivlin’s office said in a statement.

The announcement came at the end of a day in which Rivlin held consultations with all parties in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

“At the end of the consultations, 61 Members of Knesset had recommended… Benny Gantz, as opposed to 58 Members of Knesset who had recommended the current prime minister and head of Likud, MK Benjamin Netanyahu,” the statement said. One member of parliament gave no recommendation.

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