Gantz ac­cepts man­date to form new Is­raeli gov’t

Ne­tanyahu ri­val has few op­tions

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

JERUSALEM (AP) — Is­rael’s for­mer mil­i­tary chief Benny Gantz was tasked Wed­nes­day with form­ing the next gov­ern­ment, but he has few op­tions after last month’s elec­tions left him in a near tie with Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

Ne­tanyahu was given the first op­por­tu­nity to form a gov­ern­ment after as­sem­bling a large right-wing bloc but an­nounced this week that he had failed to build a 61-seat ma­jor­ity. Gantz faces sim­i­larly steep odds, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that Is­rael will hold a third elec­tion in less than a year.

Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin for­mally granted the man­date to Gantz, who will have 28 days to form a coali­tion. It is the first time in over a decade that any­one be­sides Ne­tanyahu has been given the task.

Gantz vowed to form a “func­tion­ing” unity gov­ern­ment that would “strive for peace but know how to de­feat ev­ery en­emy.”

A life­long mil­i­tary man, Gantz has pre­sented him­self as a prac­ti­cal leader who can bridge Is­rael’s many di­vi­sions and ad­dress the var­i­ous se­cu­rity threats it faces. His low-key cam­paign was in sharp con­trast to Ne­tanyahu’s, which was marked by breath­less an­nounce­ments about a sus­pected Ira­nian nu­clear site and plans to an­nex large parts of the oc­cu­pied West Bank.

Gantz also presents him­self as a more trust­wor­thy al­ter­na­tive to the scan­dal-plagued Ne­tanyahu and may hope to evoke past gen­er­als who be­came states­men, in­clud­ing Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.

But he faces steep odds in ev­ery pos­si­ble path to form­ing a gov­ern­ment. He has been en­dorsed by just 54 law­mak­ers rep­re­sent­ing an ar­ray of par­ties that are un­likely to sit to­gether in a coali­tion.

Both Gantz and Ne­tanyahu say they fa­vor a na­tional unity gov­ern­ment. To­gether, Ne­tanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White con­trol a solid 65-seat ma­jor­ity. But the two men are di­vided over who should lead any new gov­ern­ment.

Ne­tanyahu has in­sisted he head the gov­ern­ment, at least for the first two years, and that it in­clude his right-wing al­lies, con­di­tions that Gantz has re­peat­edly re­jected.

Ne­tanyahu is likely to be in­dicted on cor­rup­tion charges in the com­ing weeks, and Gantz has said Ne­tanyahu should re­solve his le­gal trou­bles be­fore re­turn­ing to the top post.

Blue and White nev­er­the­less in­vited Likud ne­go­tia­tors to a meet­ing planned for Thurs­day.

Ad­dress­ing Ne­tanyahu on Wed­nes­day, Gantz called him a “pa­triot” and said he hoped he could re­solve his le­gal is­sues.

“It is clear to both of us that the elec­tions out­come and the le­gal sit­u­a­tion de­mand a change. To­gether with you and with the other good peo­ple at the Likud we must act with re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

One path for Gantz would be to try and break up Ne­tanyahu’s rightwing al­liance and re­cruit some of the smaller par­ties to his coali­tion. But that might be seen as a ma­jor be­trayal by those par­ties’ vot­ers.

An­other op­tion would be to form a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment with Avig­dor Lieber­man, who emerged as king­maker after his party won eight seats and has re­fused to en­dorse ei­ther Gantz or Ne­tanyahu.

Xin­hua-Yonhap

Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin, right, presents Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the man­date to form a new Is­raeli gov­ern­ment at the Pres­i­dent’s res­i­dence in Jerusalem, Wed­nes­day.

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