Gantz’s decision follows a year of political deadlock in which voters had cast their ballot in three inconclusive elections.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, was elected Thursday speaker of the Knesset (parliament) in a surprise move that suggests a unity government paving the way for Netanyahu to remain in power.
The shift plunged Gantz’s Blue and White Party into disarray just a year after its creation as a coalition of centrist opponents to the 70-year-old right-winger who is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. The party dissolved following the announcement.
Gantz’s decision follows a year of political deadlock in which voters had cast their ballot in three inconclusive elections. Now the country also faces the coronavirus outbreak with more than 2,600 confirmed cases, eight people dead, much of the country under partial lockdown, and a hard-hit economy.
“These are not normal days and they call for special decisions. Therefore, as I’ve said, I intend to examine and advance, in any possible way, the creation of a national emergency government,” Gantz told parliament, accepting the speaker’s gavel.
Following the March 2 election, Gantz was asked by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to try and form a government. But without enough support on the center and left to form a coalition, Gantz’s chances were almost nonexistent.
Coalition talks were thus underway to avoid a fourth election even though both men have been tearing each other apart for 14 months.
During the election campaigns, Gantz had rejected serving with Netanyahu, citing the prime minister’s indictment.
“Why did Gantz give up? It’s very simple. Gantz is tired. And so would you be after 14 months of being relentlessly smeared and outmaneuvered by Netanyahu,” Anshel Pfeffer, a political analyst for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, wrote on Twitter.
“And now most of the Israeli public wants a unity government during the Coronavirus crisis. Very simple.”