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Gantz urged Netanyahu to find a way out to the country’s political impasse and avoid forcing Israelis into another election at the time of a national crisis.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz announced Tuesday "significant progress" in forming an emergency government. The aim is to tackle the coronavirus outbreak and end the year-long political deadlock the country has become embroiled in.
Gantz's mandate to form a coalition was expected to end by Monday night. Still, President Reuven Rivlin finally extended it by two days until Wednesday, on the "understanding that they (Gantz and Netanyahu) are very close to reaching an agreement."
As the second deadline was approaching, Gantz urged Netanyahu to find a way out to the country's political impasse and avoid forcing Israelis into another election at the time of a national crisis.
"Netanyahu, this is our moment of truth. It's either an emergency national government or, heaven forbid, expensive, and unnecessary fourth elections during a crisis. History will not forgive either of us if we run away," he said in a televised address.
Netanyahu then invited his rival to his official residence for an overnight negotiation.
Yet, announcements of progress in talks have regularly been made without any deal being reached since the March 2 election, the third inconclusive in less than a year. The political deadlock has raised fears of a fourth election, impeding a much-needed economic response to the crisis triggered by the coronavirus.
With his parliamentary majority, Gantz began preparing legislation to disqualify Netanyahu, who was indicted on corruption charges, from serving as premier in the future.
Netanyahu is Israel's longest-serving prime minister, having been in office for more than ten years. He denies the charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, filed against him in January.
Gantz had vowed during his campaigns that he would never sit in a government led by Netanyahu as long as he faces corruption charges. But then, he changed his position due to the gravity of the coronavirus crisis, he said. His decision drew heavy criticism from his supporters and caused his Blue and White alliance to dissolve.
Following that, the former military chief was widely believed to no longer being engaged in talks to forge a coalition led by him as prime minister but trying to achieve a deal that would see Netanyahu remain in power for a certain period, before handing the post to Gantz.
But negotiations stalled reportedly because of both sides' position on the judiciary, as Netanyahu wants more control over the nomination of the judges, which Gantz refuses.
If this last bid to reach a deal fails, Israel's Knesset (parliament) will have three weeks to select a candidate for prime minister. If that too fails, there will be another election and an extension to the political deadlock at a time of national health crisis.
The Jewish state has registered more than 12,000 cases of COVID-19 so far and at least 123 deaths from the disease.