Jerusalem – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, to his residence on Monday in an effort to sway the leaders of the two largest Knesset factions to form a unity government and end the political gridlock that has emerged from the country’s Sept. 17 election.
Netanyahu accepted the president’s invitation immediately, with Gantz accepting about an hour later.
Under Israeli law, following a general election, the president must task a Knesset member with forming a new government. The president must choose the Knesset member that he believes has the best chance of winning a confidence vote in the Knesset plenum.
In the Sept. 17 election, Blue and White and its allies got 54 seats, whereas Likud and its allies got 55. The Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has remained uncommitted to either bloc, got eight seats, essentially holding the balance of power.
When Rivlin completed his consultations with all the Knesset factions on Monday, more Knesset members had recommended Netanyahu as the next prime minister. But despite this apparent victory, Rivlin has not tasked Netanyahu with forming a government because Yisrael Beiteinu can still deny him the votes he needs for a Knesset majority.
Netanyahu sounded an upbeat note after it emerged that he had won the most support among Knesset members and was thus first in line to form a government.
He called on Gantz to join him in a unity government, despite the Blue and White leader saying previously that he would not sit in a government with Netanyahu while the prime minister faces potential indictment on corruption charges.
“A broad unity government is the only feasible option,” said Netanyahu, calling on Gantz to compromise.
“Let’s have a frank discussion. We wanted to form a right-wing government but this was not within our reach,” said Netanyahu. “But Gantz also failed to win enough seats, so a unity government is the only option. We must resolve this impasse by meeting and talking, with an outstretched hand of reconciliation that would best serve our nation.”
(JNS/Yori Yalon & Ariel Kahana)