Ne­tanyahu pro­poses step­ping down in power-shar­ing deal

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CORONAVIRU­S OUTBREAK -

JERUSALEM — Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter said Satur­day that he is ready to step down next year as part of a pro­posed power-shar­ing agree­ment with his chief ri­val meant to steer the coun­try through the coron­avirus cri­sis and end a year-long po­lit­i­cal dead­lock.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu made his pro­posal dur­ing a na­tion­ally tele­vised in­ter­view, call­ing for the for­ma­tion of a three-year “emer­gency” unity gov­ern­ment with the ri­val Blue and White Party.

Ne­tanyahu said he would re­main as prime min­is­ter for the first year and a half, and al­low Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to as­sume the post for a sec­ond year-and-ahalf term in Septem­ber 2021. He said each party would have an equal num­ber of seats in the Cabi­net.

“I will give up the prime min­is­ter’s post in another year and a half,” Ne­tanyahu said.

Yair Lapid, a se­nior Blue and White leader, dis­missed Ne­tanyahu’s unity of­fer as in­sin­cere. “Next week, we will go to choose a new par­lia­ment speaker and work to bat­tle coron­avirus for the good of the peo­ple,” he said.

Is­rael is fac­ing a growing threat from the coron­avirus pan­demic. It has de­tected nearly 900 cases and on Fri­day re­ported its first death.

Blue and White has ac­cused Ne­tanyahu of us­ing the coron­avirus cri­sis to un­der­mine the coun­try’s demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and try to de­rail his sched­uled trial on cor­rup­tion charges. Se­nior mem­bers of Gantz’ party have ex­pressed skep­ti­cism at pre­vi­ous pow­er­shar­ing over­tures by Ne­tanyahu, con­cerned that he would not fol­low through on his promises.

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