Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival, BennyGantz, was elected parliamentary president on Thursday in a surprise move that could herald a unity government keeping the veteran leader in power.
With the support of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and allied parties, former General Gantzleft, many of his own political allies, have worked to facilitate the path of criminal prosecution of a partnership with a Prime Minister .
The surprise twist in 48 hours of political drama plunged Gantz’s Blue and White Party into disarray just 13 months after its creation as a coalition of centrist opponents Netanyahu determined to bring down the 70-year-old right winger who is the Israel’s oldest prime minister.
Gantz’s decision opened the possibility of a “rotation” agreement in which he and Netanyahu take turns as leader.
It follows a year of political stalemate in which a jaded Israeli electorate voted in three inconclusive elections, with no appetite for a fourth.
Even more urgent, he is facing the coronavirus pandemic which, with more than 2,600 confirmed cases, 8 dead and a large part of the country under partial locking, has hit the economy hard.
“These are not normal days and they call for special decisions. Therefore, as I said, I intend to review and advance, in any way possible, the creation of a national emergency government, “said Gantztold’s parliament, accepting the president’s hammer.
His brief speech followed a dark scene underlying the gravity of the health crisis in which parliamentarians entered one by one into the almost empty main chamber of the Knesset to maintain social estrangement.
After the March 2 election, Gantz was invited by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to try to form a government. The highly respected Rivlin had already pressed Gantz and Netanyahu to join forces, the country being faced with a possible national foreclosure in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
But without enough support from the center and left to form a coalition, Gantz’s chances were slim, if not zero.
This repeated the pattern of two elections in 2019, with neither Netanyahu nor Gantzable to form a government, so that coalition talks were soon underway even though the two men had gone out of their way during election campaigns.
Netanyahu proposed a “national emergency” government to fight the coronavirus, promising to resign as prime minister within an agreed timeframe. Some Israeli media have said that Gantz will take over by September 2021, but this has not been confirmed by any of the parties.
During the election campaign, Gantzhad excluded from serving with Netanyahu, citing the Prime Minister’s impending trial on charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust, which he denies.
But Likud had threatened to abandon unity efforts if Blue and White pursued their original presidential candidate, who opposed any deal with Netanyahu.
“Why did Gantz give up? It’s very simple. Gantzis is tired. And you would be after 14 months after being constantly smeared and manipulated by Netanyahu,” wrote political analyst Anshel Pfeffer on Twitter. Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“And now most of the Israeli public wants a unity government during the coronavirus crisis. Very simple.”
At least one member of Netanyahu’s right wing bloc, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, publicly praised Netanyahu and Gantzon for a unity deal, but no official announcement has been made.
Gantz, a former Israeli army chief, is a political newcomer. He described himself as a straight shooter who will return simple values to Israel. But what he would do in power is not entirely clear, as he sent mixed messages.
He presents himself as more accommodating on the diplomatic level than Netanyahu, urging to redouble his efforts to resume peace talks. But he also adopted US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which has been flatly rejected by the Palestinians for what they see as a pro-Israel bias.