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Israel's main parties begin coalition talks

September 24, 2019

Representatives of Israel's two largest parties are meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a unity government after last week's indecisive election.A political deadlock is threatening to force a third election.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (center) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

Late Monday, President Reuven Rivlin summoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his election rival, Benny Gantz, hoping to break a political deadlock after the September 17 election.

Gantz had been reluctant to initiate talks with Netanyahu but Rivlin expects the two parties to break the political impasse; otherwise the country could be forced to hold its third election in less than a year.

The president is constitutionally responsible for nominating a prime minister after national elections. But neither Netanyahu's Likud party nor the centrist Blue and White party secured enough seats with their allies to form a majority.

Read more: End of the Netanyahu era? Worn-out Israel wakes up to political turmoil

Last week's vote marked the first time Israel has held two votes in one year. The ballot was called after Netanyahu's right-wing Likud failed to win enough votes to form a coalition following the election in April.

Israeli media have reported that the Blue and White party won 33 out of 120 parliamentary seats; Likud has 31.

Boost for Gantz

Netanyahu had previously offered to form a unity government last week, but Gantz rejected his proposal. Instead, Gantz — a former army general — expressed his wish to become prime minister.

"If Netanyahu moves aside, we'll have a unity government," Gantz's second-in-command, Yair Lapid, said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Israel's Arab bloc, the Joint List party, has announced its endorsement of Gantz's party.

By supporting the Blue and White leader on Sunday, the Arab bloc broke with its own precedent of withholding support for either of the top Israeli candidates.

"We want to bring an end to the era of Netanyahu, so we recommend that Benny Gantz be the one to form the next government," said party head Ayman Odeh.

Odeh's party saw its turnout swell in last week's election. With 13 seats, the Joint List party is now the third-largest grouping in the Knesset.

Netanyahu blasted the Arab party's support for Gantz, saying Israelis were now faced with two choices: "a minority government that leans on those that reject Israel as a Jewish, democratic state" or a "broad national government" composed of his and Gantz's parties.

shs/ng (dpa, AFP)

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