Weakened Netanyahu seeks unity government with rival Gantz, but rebuffed

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, attend a memorial ceremony for late Israeli President Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

792 View

+ -

SULAIMANI — Israel’s weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited his main political rival, Benny Gantz, on Thursday (September 19) to join him in a broad coalition government but was immediately rebuffed by the former general’s party.

Netanyahu’s surprise offer of a power share was an abrupt change of strategy after failing to win a ruling majority in two elections this year, according to Reuters.

Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged from Tuesday’s ballot slightly ahead of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, with a final tally expected within days.

In his first remarks since Netanyahu’s call, Gantz made no mention of the prime minister and said he himself would head a “liberal” unity government, shorthand for one that excludes the Israeli leader’s long-time ultra-Orthodox allies.

The process could take weeks.

Gantz left it to Moshe Yaalon, one of his fellow Blue and White leaders, to deliver a strong rejection of Netanyahu, citing looming corruption charges against him.

“The time has come for you to tell Netanyahu, ‘thank you for all you’ve done’,” Moshe Yaalon urged Likud members. “We will not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu said he was “surprised and disappointed” and reiterated his call to Gantz.

“It’s what the public expects of us,” Netanyahu said about a broad government.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)